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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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December 1, 2009

Climategate and Scientific Conduct

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Posted by Derek

Everyone has heard about the "Climategate" scandal by now. Someone leaked hundreds of megabytes of information from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, and the material (which appears to be authentic) is most interesting. I'm not actually going to comment on the climate-change aspect of all this, though. I have my own opinions, and God knows everyone else has one, too, but what I feel needs to be looked at is the scientific conduct. I'm no climatologist, but I am an experienced working scientist - so, is there a problem here?

I'll give you the short answer: yes. I have to say that there appears to be several, as shown by many troubling features in the documents that have come out. The first one is the apparent attempts to evade the UK's Freedom of Information Act. I don't see how these messages can be interpreted in any other way as an attempt to break the law, and I don't see how they can be defended:

Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?
Keith will do likewise. He's not in at the moment - minor family crisis. Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don't have his new email address. We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.

A second issue is a concerted effort to shape what sorts of papers get into the scientific literature. Again, this does not seem to be a matter of interpretation; such messages as this, this, and this spell out exactly what's going on. You have talk of getting journal editors fired:

This is truly awful. GRL has gone downhill rapidly in recent years.
I think the decline began before Saiers. I have had some unhelpful dealings with him recently with regard to a paper Sarah and I have on glaciers -- it was well received by the referees, and so is in the publication pipeline. However, I got the impression that Saiers was trying to keep it from being published.

Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted. Even this would be difficult.

And of trying to get papers blocked from being referenced:

I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !

Two questions arise: is this defensible, and does such behavior take place in other scientific disciplines? Personally, I find this sort of thing repugnant. Readers of this site will know that I tend to err on the side of "Publish and be damned", preferring to let the scientific literature sort itself out as ideas are evaluated and experiments are reproduced. I support the idea of peer review, and I don't think that every single crazy idea should be thrown out to waste everyone's time. But I set the "crazy idea" barrier pretty low, myself, remembering that a lot of really big ideas have seemed crazy at first. If a proposal has some connection with reality, and can be tested, I say put it out there, and the more important the consequences, the lower the barrier should be. (The flip side, of course, is that when some oddball idea has been tried and found wanting, its proponents should go away, to return only when they have something sturdier. That part definitely doesn't work as well as it should.)

So this "I won't send my work to a journal that publishes papers that disagree with me" business is, in my view, wrong. The East Anglia people went even farther, though, working to get journal editors and editorial boards changed so that they would be more to their liking, and I think that that's even more wrong. But does this sort of thing go on elsewhere?

It wouldn't surprise me. I hate to say that, and I have to add up front that I've never witnessed anything like this personally, but it still wouldn't surprise me. Scientists often have very easily inflamed egos, and divide into warring camps all too easily. But while it may have happened somewhere else, that does not make it normal (and especially not desirable) scientific behavior. This is not a standard technique by which our sausage is made over here.

What I've seen in organic chemistry are various attempts to steer papers to particular reviewers (or evade other ones). And I've seen people fire off angry letters to journal editors about why some particular paper was published (and why the letter writer's manuscript in response had not been accepted in turn, likely as not). The biggest brawl of them all was still going early in my career (having started before I was born): the fight over the nonclassical norbornyl cation, the very mention of which is still enough to make some older chemists put their hands over their ears and start to hum loudly. That one involved (among many others) two future Nobel Prize winners (H. C. Brown and George Olah), and got very heated indeed - but I still don't recall either one of them trying to get journal editors fired after publishing rival manuscripts. You don't do that sort of thing.

And that brings up an additional problem with all this journal curating: the CRU people have replied to their critics in the past by saying that more of their own studies have been published in the peer-reviewed literature. This is disingenuous when you're working at the same time to shape the peer-reviewed literature into what you think it should look like.

A third issue I want to comment on are the problems with the data and its analysis. I have deep sympathy for the fellow who tried to reconcile the various poorly documented and conflicting data sets and buggy, unannotated code that the CRU has apparently depended on. And I can easily see how this happens. I've been on long-running projects, especially some years ago, where people start to lose track of which numbers came from where (and when), where the underlying raw data are stored, and the history of various assumptions and corrections that were made along the way. That much is normal human behavior. But this goes beyond that.

Those of us who work in the drug industry know that we have to keep track of such things, because we're making decisions that could eventually run into the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars of our own money. And eventually we're going to be reviewed by regulatory agencies that are not staffed with our friends, and who are perfectly capable of telling us that they don't like our numbers and want us to go spend another couple of years (and another fifty or hundred million dollars) generating better ones for them. The regulatory-level lab and manufacturing protocols (GLP and GMP) generate a blizzard of paperwork for just these reasons.

But the stakes for climate research are even higher. The economic decisions involved make drug research programs look like roundoff errors. The data involved have to be very damned good and convincing, given the potential impact on the world economy, through both the possible effects of global warming itself and the effects of trying to ameliorate it. Looking inside the CRU does not make me confident that their data come anywhere close to that standard:

I am very sorry to report that the rest of the databases seem to be in nearly as poor a state as Australia was. There are hundreds if not thousands of pairs of dummy stations, one with no WMO and one with, usually overlapping and with the same station name and very similar coordinates. I know it could be old and new stations, but why such large overlaps if that's the case? Aarrggghhh! There truly is no end in sight... So, we can have a proper result, but only by including a load of garbage!

I do not want the future of the world economy riding on this. And what's more, it appears that the CRU no longer has much of their original raw data. It appears to have been tossed over twenty years ago. What we have left, as far as I can see, is a large data set of partially unknown origin, which has been adjusted by various people over the years in undocumented ways. If this is not the case, I would very much like the CRU to explain why not, and in great detail. And I do not wish to hear from people who wish to pretend that everything's just fine.

The commentator closest to my views is Clive Crook at The Atlantic, whose dismay at all this is unhidden. I'm not hiding mine, either. No matter what you think about climate change, if you respect the scientific endeavor, this is very bad news. Respect has to be earned. And it can be lost.

Comments (171) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Current Events | General Scientific News | The Dark Side | The Scientific Literature


1. Andrew30 on December 1, 2009 9:30 AM writes...

It is understandable that many people have latched on to the emails, but in their defense the people at CRU indicate that the emails are ‘without context’ or somehow ‘normal banter’ in a scientific institution.

The program code however is different.

It is the actual program code, the modeling code that contains the most damaging evidence. I am not talking about the 'comments' in the code but rather the actual computer program source code itself.

Unlike comments and emails the computer code can only be interpreted in one way. Unlike the comments and the emails the computer code is whole unto it self and requires no external context.

So now everyone has the code.

However now CRU have somehow ‘lost’ the world’s raw climate data that they used in their modeling.

It may have been necessary for them to have lost the raw temperature data. If the raw temperature data was available then they might be asked to reproduce Exactly The Same Results, in front of skeptical witnesses, as they had used in their peer-reviewed publications that were distributed to the world. This might have been impossible without using some infected modeling code, which an investigating scientist might discover.

If the results can not be reproduced the paper that used the results should be withdrawn. Then every paper that cited that paper, and so on until the whole web of pseudo-science that can be traced back to the original fabrication has been purged from the libraries

It is not scientific unless an independent body can reproduce the results.

For information on the possible code infection see:

Anthropogenic Global Warming Virus Alert.

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2. wei on December 1, 2009 9:37 AM writes...

they should never put it down in writing

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3. Evorich on December 1, 2009 9:51 AM writes...

The climate change issue has become the world's most powerful religeon. Science has nothing to do with it anymore and hasn't done for quite some time.

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4. Edward on December 1, 2009 9:53 AM writes...

If raw data were destroyed by a scientist in any other field there would be calls for their head to roll, funding be cut, etc. but as long as you are "saving the world" apparently the rules do not apply to you.

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5. RB Woodweird on December 1, 2009 10:07 AM writes...

I really haven't been following this story, mostly because I used my psychic ability to see where it was going. No reason to pay attention. It was going to be a big long "oh noes, some scientists are cheating douchebags, therefore there is no global warming", this mostly rolling off the drums of shills working for industries guarding their bottom lines.

How much of the poor state of the data - missing, incomplete - can be traced back to refusal to fund such work in the first place, stonewalled by the usual crowd?

If our lunchroom banter and hallway small talk was collected and leaked, how big of a brick would the FDA, the EPA, and maybe the ATF pass?

This data that was lost. Was it all the climate data ever collected? Or was it just some kept by this University of East Anglia place.

And where the hell is the University of East Anglia anyway?

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6. alig on December 1, 2009 10:14 AM writes...

Unfortunately, the Univ. Of E Anglia CRU data was considered to be the best data. Now it has come to light that the raw data has been missing for 20 years? WTF.

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7. Derek Lowe on December 1, 2009 10:21 AM writes...

RB, as I mentioned in the post, I'm not going to get into the is-global-warming-real aspect of things at all. Even the firmest believer should be shaken up by the CRU story (as witness George Monbiot).

That's because the data from this center is a key piece of the UN's IPCC recommendations. You may not have heard of the University of East Anglia, but its data set is actually very important indeed.

And I haven't even linked to the "lunchtime banter" stuff, because I agree that it's trivial. What's left, though, isn't trivial at all.

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8. Jonathan on December 1, 2009 10:22 AM writes...

Your points might have more validity if the CRU was the only place in the world doing climate research or the only place in the world that's showing rising temperatures etc. Yet everyone else is seeing the same trends and coming to the same conclusions. Sure, the tone in the emails is impolitic but I'd bet you'd find the same if you hacked into the accounts of people working in, say, the autism field discussing the lunatics who believe that vaccinations are the cause. Just a guess, but I imagine you have less sympathy for the vaccine-autism movement getting their papers published and you'd be more charitable if these leaked emails were discussing getting a crank off an editorial board who thought vaccines caused autism.

And that's without bringing up the PNAS scandal.

I would refer you to John Timmer's rather excellent post on the matter over at Ars Technica:

One of the problems caused by the e-mails is that the scientists involved aren't discussing their data and its analysis using scientific terminology; instead, things come across more as what you might hear in an office environment. In short, the scientists sound like regular human beings (more on that below). When faced with two different data sets that provide different answers, the e-mails don't phrase things in terms of "what scientifically valid adjustment can be made to bring these two data sets into agreement?" Instead, the authors consider the problem in terms of how they can make the discrepancy go away.

Similarly, it's apparently widely recognized that, although tree ring data nicely tracks the temperature record for roughly a century, it diverges after 1960, when the modern rise in temperatures started. So, in a variety of papers, researchers have presented the instrument record, either superimposed or instead of the tree ring data, for periods where it's available (and clearly labelled the graphs accordingly). In the e-mails, this is described as a "trick" to "hide" the problem.

All of this is more pronounced when the data is preliminary, and researchers may not yet know how to interpret it or fit it into the larger body of existing data. That will get smoothed out by the time the data eventually gets published, but preparing data for publication is generally a small portion of an entire research project, and the e-mails largely reflect the longer period when confusion and frustration dominate.

As a result, the e-mails sound awful. But, the unfortunate truth is that this is the way scientists talk. "Lab-speak is full of shortcuts," said physics researcher and Ars contributor Chris Lee. "The way I discuss things internally is not the same way as I present them to the rest of the scientific community." And my experience from biology is that if I heard a coworker mention they had a trick to get better data from mouse embryos, I'd assume they were talking about a microscopy technique, not scientific fraud.

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9. Wavefunction on December 1, 2009 10:24 AM writes...

Here's my take on this. The climate change scientists are in a real dilemma. The climate is a complex system and it won't be surprising if they keep on finding major and minor errors and disagreements in their work. In fact that's what you would expect when you are scientifically studying such a complex system. Nothing wrong with that at all.

But the real problem is that even if they find these problems, they are going to fear going public with them because of the political climate. There is no dearth of right-wing extremists who are just poised to pounce on any such discrepancies and declare the entire enterprise futile. There is also no dearth of left-wing extremists who will disown the scientists and declare them to be paid corporate shills. All this is forcing the scientists to stay silent in my opinion even when they know better.

Of course that's bad science, since science only proceeds by way of disagreements and by making all of your data public. But the economic stakes with climate change are so high that good politics is often trumping good science.

Call it whatever else you will, but science is the real casualty here. And as scientists we are part of the casualty too. That's what's sad.

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10. MDW on December 1, 2009 10:30 AM writes...

One thing often overlooked regarding this mess is the selection effect involved in driving the makeup of the entire AGW field. That is, the very idea of 'climate science' is relatively new. There are of course communities of scientists who study weather, various physical aspects of the earth's history, etc., but specifically studying the history of the Earth's temperature and weather patterns is a recent phenomenon. The field of climatology itself has been rather politicized from the start ('global cooling' decades ago, the ozone hole) and has been associated with the green movement from early on. So, what sort of young person would tend to go into this field? If you are thinking about studying something in this general area, wouldn't your politics and general beliefs influence you to move toward or away from climate studies? As the field became more high-profile and overtly political, wouldn't that effect deepen? Over time, what sort of person would you expect the field to be comprised of? Do you think it would be pretty heterogeneous, or not? Ask yourself a similar question: what sort of person becomes a poststructuralist?

Ah, you say. But these people are scientists. That will cleanse the field of misapprehensions. This thought misses the point. Scientists are people, and all the bad aspects of people go along with that. It is only the scientific method and specifically the rigor of repeated and repeatable experimentation that allows us to muddle in a direction we can safely refer to as ‘forward.’ Without that, you wind up with something like particle physics, which without the benefit of experimentation has for decades now wandered off into a playland of mathematics where symmetry, beauty, and indefinable feelings of correctness are valued, and some of the very smartest people in the world have been reduced to having a quasi-religious stance toward their, and their fellow scientists’ work. Look at economics, where the arcane of mathematical models has led the field to a point where the field as a whole can agree on very few propositions, and where ideas such as MMT, which is a very simple collection of obvious statements, can be summarily ignored. Why? How? Because it is hard to check theory with experiment, and given the choice, people will continue to believe what they want to believe. People with careers spent defending Propositions X and Y will naturally have a hard time coming around to the view that actually, Propositions A and B seem to have much more evidence behind them. In fact, they will tend to fight that change vigorously. There is a constant tension between what people want and need to believe and what people are forced to accept. It is so, so much easier to be wrong than to be (tentatively) right. Given the chance, people will almost always lead themselves astray. It is just too difficult to understand something new. A community of people can be persuaded of just about anything, as history has shown – need we list some examples? Without being forced – I think that is an appropriate word – to constantly check our ideas vs what we charmingly call ‘reality,’ any group of ‘scientists’ will eventually become nothing more than a group of people with the same hobby.

And so we come to climate science. You have a fairly small group of people strongly predisposed to believe in a particular idea; a group most of whom are invested from the start in such an idea. You have an external environment which copiously rewards you for holding such ideas. You have limited data, much of which has proved to be of questionable enough quality that even the people in charge constantly employ fudge factors for it. You rely on models which are clearly incapable of robust predictions, and which again can and must be constantly tweaked with ‘improved’ assumptions. You have, in short, a giant socially constructed epicycle-building machine.

What do you think will happen?

Is it somehow wrong to argue in this way? Perhaps we should let the data decide. Evidencing reasons are far, far superior to motivating reasons. I agree. But much of the evidence looks far from evidentiary, much of it we can’t look at at all, and the rest we have to take people’s word for, and/or assume some model is correct.

Ultimately, evidence will decide things. But we have very, very good reason to think that evidence may not be what has decided things to this point. And it is entirely reasonable to argue THAT point based on motivating reasons. Because science is hard, and people are weak.

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11. Anonymous on December 1, 2009 10:31 AM writes...

book smart vs. common sense

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12. road on December 1, 2009 10:44 AM writes...

In my own field, I can read someone else's paper and decide if their assumptions and data-manipulations are bullshit or not. I can't do that in other fields because I'm not intimately familiar with the experimental techniques. I think most people probably feel the same -- that it's hard to be objective and critical of research in other fields. I have NO IDEA if the climatology data really support the claims of global warming. And frankly, neither does anyone else, unless they've spent a lifetime studying it. HOWEVER, for some reason, just about everyone who's spent a lifetime studying climatology data appears to come to similar conclusions and to me that's very convincing. You can have all the data-scandals you want, but I'm betting that there's a reason that climate-scientists believe in anthropogenic climate change.

It's the same issue with the evolution-deniers: Anyone that spends their life looking at DNA sequences and orthologies couldn't even imagine an alternative to the theory that evolution proceeds randomly through mutation. However, the public, which doesn't look at data, can argue about it for decades. On that issue, it's clear to me that familiarity with the raw data engenders obvious conclusions and I assume climate-change is the same.

And also, Derek, it's really not fair to claim that the nonbornyl cation controversy was even remotely similar to something like this. I'm not defending these particular scientists, but a lifetime of having CNN report-on and and mis-interpret every single paper you published would probably push even the most level-headed scientists to focus on persuasive data presentation.

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13. mrr on December 1, 2009 10:46 AM writes...

Thank you Derek for this, your finest post.

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14. Hap on December 1, 2009 10:54 AM writes...

I can see reasons for not wanting to publish papers with questionable hypotheses but some data - in politically charged fields, the presence of a paper (regardless of its quality) is likely to be taken as evidence of the correctness of its underlying theory, and used as such among people who are unlikely to know its context and evaluate its quality. The alternative (excluding papers with theories that disagree with the dominant one) seems like a much worse idea.

UEA seems to be behaving in precisely the way that people who disagree with AGW have been claiming. Since lots of people can't evaluate the evidence for/against AGW (and lots of those are the people determining what to do in response to it), trust and integrity are really their main assets. If you lose those, you don't have anything - people can't trust your data, and they can't trust what you generate from either your data or that of others. It gives your opponents a shining example of behavior to use against anyone who thinks as you do. As such, it seems patently stupid.

Science is supposed to be a way of thinking and testing our thoughts that makes it hard to fool ourselves (as others have put it), and marrying our theories to achieve the political ends we believe are needed because of them makes it harder for us to test our theories and ourselves. In politics, certainty is valued, often over truth, but that's a dangerous value order for science (and for politics, as well), and the people at UEA ought to have understood that. (Voters ought to understand that, at some point, but uncertainty isn't easy for most people to handle.)

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15. CB on December 1, 2009 11:03 AM writes...

It seems clear that these idiots should be run out of town, just based on the email exchange. I agree with Edward, heads should roll.

In the long run the best scientific models will win out!

Unfortunately, the climate skeptics arguments are very similar to creationists, or spritualists arguments against the various aspects of science they take a dislike. They have no testable models, they make no predictions and they generate no empirical data.
I have seen no serious efforts to generate more predictive climate models that are not reliant on greenhouse gases.

This is surprising since 1) copious research funding from the fossil fuel industry would certainly be available 2) the surest path to fame and fortune in science is in slaying myths. 3) predictive climate models provide extremely valuable information that can be used by agriculture, finance, insurance, govt. etc.

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16. BACE on December 1, 2009 11:07 AM writes...

I know this post is not about global warming per se but I would recommend an objective and well-written book that describes the history of the science that led to the global warming consensus- Spencer Weart's "The Discovery of Global Warming"

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17. rob on December 1, 2009 11:10 AM writes...

Derek says the results of climate science have to be very good and very convincing if we're going to believe them.

I agree.

So where are the safety data showing that pumping gigatons of CO2 into the air is an ok thing to do? Where are the coal companies' data and models? The oil companies'?

And can we please plow through the last N years of internal emails from these companies as well? Or those from the lobbies they fund?

Why don't you hold polluting companies to a standard that even remotely approaches the one you hold climate scientists to? Or even the one that-- you say-- pharma companies routinely meet. After all, as you rightly say, the stakes are enormous.

How do you justify using different standards for different institutions?

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18. Anonymous on December 1, 2009 11:18 AM writes...

My question is how many other global temperature records are there? Basically to get at what percentage of climate scientists rely on the CRU global values wich now seem to be backed only by "lost" data. I realize that this data is considered "very important" but how much? If only 20% of the literature relied on this data then with the remaining 80% one can still pull together some analysis. But if say 70% or 80% of the literature studies relied on this data analysis of the collective body becomes much more difficult.

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19. Robert Bruce Thompson on December 1, 2009 11:19 AM writes...

At this point, I'm not even sure that "climate science" has made the jump from a pseudoscience to a protoscience, but the Hadley/CRU mess is a strong argument that it's still in the former category. Given that Hadley/CRU was one of the two major sources of historical climate data and that both of those sources have now contaminated each other to the point where none of their data are trustworthy, it seems that the question is no longer whether global warming is anthropogenic, but whether it is even occurring at all.

The real cost of this mess can't be calculated, because all scientists will be tarred with the same brush. Already, the creationists and IDiots are using the Hadley/CRU mess to attack evolution on the basis that scientists are proven liars.

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20. David P on December 1, 2009 11:24 AM writes...

I hate the fact that the way of doing science is undermined by this scandal.

I had (have still even) hopes that climate change would be the thing that got developed countries to be less wasteful, which seems to me to be a good thing regardless of the effect on the planet.

Oh, and since no one else answered, University of East Anglia is on the east coast of England, In Norwich. That is the flat sort of round bit on the right, above London.

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21. pi* on December 1, 2009 11:25 AM writes...

Is e-mailing your friends trying to figure out who is reviewing a Science paper OK?

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22. Derek Lowe on December 1, 2009 11:30 AM writes...

Rob, I tend to think that pumping excess CO2 into the air is, in fact, probably not a good idea. The question is, just how bad will the consequences be, how long will they take to develop, and what should we then do about them? All of these are very much open to argument, and the answers are very important. So if someone comes forward and strongly advocates a course of action based on their data and models, scrutiny is the only appropriate response.

Your question about the safety data from the oil and coal people is rhetorical, of course - for many years, no one even thought about such things, and the carbon dioxide emissions were the least of anyone's worries (compared to lead, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, etc.) No one ever ran environmental impact studies on the Industrial Revolution or its sequels.

I don't see this as a competition between one group that says that excess CO2 is a disaster and one group that says it's peachy.

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23. bearing on December 1, 2009 11:33 AM writes...

@Road 10:44:

"In my own field, I can read someone else's paper and decide if their assumptions and data-manipulations are bullshit or not. I can't do that in other fields because I'm not intimately familiar with the experimental techniques. I think most people probably feel the same -- that it's hard to be objective and critical of research in other fields. I have NO IDEA if the climatology data really support the claims of global warming. And frankly, neither does anyone else, unless they've spent a lifetime studying it. HOWEVER, for some reason, just about everyone who's spent a lifetime studying climatology data appears to come to similar conclusions and to me that's very convincing. You can have all the data-scandals you want, but I'm betting that there's a reason that climate-scientists believe in anthropogenic climate change."

Yes, I am where you are. There is a reason that climate scientists believe this. But what isn't clear to me is this: How *much* of that reason is directly or indirectly based on the integrity of the missing data sets? Because now the integrity of those data sets is un-testable: they are removed from the reach of scientific research. Perhaps a historian could make something of them. A scientist cannot.

Suppose we were to remove from consideration, because suspect, all the results of all the models that took as inputs the missing data set. And then, went forward and removed all the papers that relied heavily on the results of those models to bolster their arguments or as inputs for future models and calculations. And then kept moving forward and deleting all results that rest implicitly on the integrity of the specific data that we now know was destroyed and cannot be examined. What will be left then? Perhaps what's left will still be enough to convince the world's honest climatologists that the AGW situation is still so unimpeachably grave. But we do not know until we see how far the missing data set has propagated through the literature.

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24. gyges on December 1, 2009 11:45 AM writes...

Interesting links from the Activist teacher,

told you so,


Global Warming Truth or Dare. A critique from Feb 2007.

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25. Nick K on December 1, 2009 11:46 AM writes...

This represents an appalling betrayal of trust, especially in a domain where integrity and openness are so important. How can anyone take Jones' statements on climate seriously now he has revealed just how partisan he is?

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26. road on December 1, 2009 11:51 AM writes...


That's a good question. Again, all I know is my field. And in that field nobody believes anything that isn't supported by lots and lots of separate data that comes from all over. Each isolated piece of evidence, in and of itself, is not wholly convincing, but over years of seeing supporting data over and over again one becomes overwhelmingly convinced. I could be wrong, but I assume that these people (climatolagists) are not basing something so important on one dataset. The public seems to think that scientists do one experiment and then a thing is proved or disproved, and I presume that we as scientists all know that this is 99% preposterous, no?
Again, I have no idea how important this particular dataset is to their claims, but if the entire climatology community is basing a majority of their conclusions on a single dataset then it really is psuedoscience. And from what I've seen serious governmental agencies like NSF and DOE don't fund a lot of pseudoscience. I think it's probably a credible field of study, perhaps excepting the CRU lot.

I'm a biologist and the way I look at it is that there isn't a single lab or result that one could discredit and profoundly change our understanding of biology (excepting really recent stuff that people still argue over). I assume climatology is similar (and that's why I doubt that this CRU debacle really changes much, scientifically) but what do I know?

I totally agree. Why does everyone have to be 1000% convinced that something is bad before acting? If there was some compelling evidence that you were developing clogged arteries and might get a heart attack, you'd probably act without proof. Shouldn't the burden of proof be on those that want to continue polluting?

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27. Don'taskme on December 1, 2009 11:57 AM writes...

I can't wait to hear what C and E News Editor Rudy Baum is going to say about this.

He has been on a tirade about how anyone who questions the science of global warming is a knuckle-dragging moron, and can't be considered a scientist.

I'm sure he'd rather pass a cinder block than write about it. But in order to have any integrity, he will have to.

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28. Rob on December 1, 2009 12:11 PM writes...


Thanks for your response. Actually, my question about safety data was NOT rhetorical. Yes, its true that people once thought there was nothing wrong with dumping CO2 into the air, but why is that relevant for today?

Are you seriously arguing that "well, because we once had no idea that this was problematic, we'll therefore continue to assume-- or just pretend-- that it isn't?"

You write: "So if someone comes forward and strongly advocates a course of action based on their data and models, scrutiny is the only appropriate response."

Well, the oil and coal people are strongly advocating a course of action. They are proposing (and getting) massive subsidies for their products, and advocating that society continue to use their products. And the lives of billions of people around the world (not just their users) depends on their safety claims being correct.

Where is the safety data to back up their claims?

Where are the studies they have done?

Where were they submitted for peer review? How did the process work? Did the oil and coal companies ever attempt to influence the peer review process or the political process?

Again, these aren't rhetorical questions. I'm honestly quite curious how you justify refusing to hold those who advocate the use of fossil fuels to standards even remotely similar to those you hold climate scientists (or even pharmaceutical scientists) to.

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29. bearing on December 1, 2009 12:12 PM writes...

@road #25,

I could be wrong, but I assume that these people (climatolagists) are not basing something so important on one dataset.

Yes, that is the assumption that I would like to check now.

I also assume that they are not basing *everything* on one data set, but I assume that they are basing *some fraction* of their total, shall we say, "picture" on that data set. I want to know how big is that fraction, and when you take the data set and its sequelae away, how much does the uncertainty increase.

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30. Tom Myers on December 1, 2009 12:17 PM writes...

In reading the emails, I think you have to remember that they're being written by people who mostly believe that the "skeptics" are mostly or entirely non-skeptical; they think that they are scientists faced with an ideological and commercial opposition, not a scientific opposition. See, e.g., "The Manufactured Doubt industry and the hacked email controversy." They may be right, but the belief itself induces circling-the-wagons behavior, effectively forming counter-conspiracies of the sort you describe.

I don't think that most of the email fragments amount to much, in context, nor even the throwing away of their copies of other people's data, back when storage was a big deal. (Yes, it was bad, but it doesn't amount to much.) I'm not at all impressed by the "ARTIFICIAL CORRECTION" code comment. I do think that if the overall curve were fake, we would need to be looking for a really gigantic multi-country conspiracy with a cast of thousands; I don't find that plausible, and I do find the warming scenarios plausible in light of, e.g., ice loss. (I did make fun of climate models in the 80s, but not lately.) But I would personally be delighted by a rule that whenever any paper is published with Federal funding, the data and source code and commentaries must be made available in the form of a bootable disk image which can be downloaded and which can then run whatever modeling etc. software is required. Even "open source" is not good enough because open source code, e.g. my own, depends on specific versions of underlying software so it's often a major hassle to set things up even when you completely trust the software author. Self-contained bootable; that should do it.

Thoughts? :-)

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31. road on December 1, 2009 12:18 PM writes...


agreed. if you figure anything out, please post here.

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32. dearieme on December 1, 2009 12:24 PM writes...

"I can't do that in other fields because I'm not intimately familiar with the experimental techniques." There are no controlled experiments of the sort most of us are familiar with. There are mathematical models of climate, there are reported temperature observations (but few before 1880) with hard-to-estimate biasing because of Urban Heat Island effects, poor instrument location and so on, there are attempts to coax historical temperatures out of proxies (but rather a short run of temperatures to calibrate them against) and, for about 30 years or so, there are satellite measurements (but I gather that they are subjected to some calibration against the likes of CRU data). When you have people tweaking the models, fudging the proxies, and adjusting the observations in ways that they intend to keep secret, it adds up to a shoddy evidence base for a decision to spend trillions of dollars.

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33. Chris on December 1, 2009 12:30 PM writes...

Why do journals allow publications without the appropriate data being available as supplementary information?

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34. Straw Man on December 1, 2009 12:32 PM writes...

Rob, your logic is impeccable.

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35. milkshake on December 1, 2009 1:13 PM writes...

I have problem with salesmanship and policy agendas in science. Man-made global warming has became a huge international project. Now it seems the data points were massaged to fit the desirable curve to support the pre-determined conclusions.
Enviro-activists became victims of their own success (banning Freons, PCBs and chlorinated insecticides and commercial whaling) and there is a whole political pressure machinery and gravy train in predicting the impending doomsday. Neomalthusians predicted world-wide famine to start around 1975, and silent spring all about the same time. Banning DDT and opposing GMOs has been a great disservice to the third world.

One of the reason why Freeman Dyson is lukewarm is that as a JASON he got involved with simulations of consequences all-out thermonuclear war, and he was close to people who were running these models, and he knew they started back-tracking from the original "Nuclear winter" scenario more towards "nuclear dimming" when the better data did not support their initial catastrophic conclusions - and finally they decided to keep mum about the whole discrepancy.
They privately admitted that the climatology science behind the "nuclear winter" scenario was atrocious but they would not want to retract it - because they did not want to lend support to some generals starting a nuclear holocaust!

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36. bearing on December 1, 2009 1:18 PM writes...

There's nothing illogical in what Rob has suggested, it just betrays a difference in the relative emphasis on two different values (and I'm not suggesting with this comment that one is inherently better than the other). One is the value of the good we call "economic freedom" and the other is the good we call "public safety."

If you value economic freedom very highly -- and it is true that society derives benefits from economic freedom, benefits that will be diminished if laws and treaties restrict economic freedom -- you will require a high degree of certainty that a given economic behavior endangers the public before you will permit governments to act to restrict that behavior.

If you do not value economic freedom very highly compared to public safety, you will be willing to restrict behavior based on quite scant evidence that the behavior might endanger the public.

This is why two people could hold the two "sides" of the debate to different standards and still be logically consistent.

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37. oxsg on December 1, 2009 1:18 PM writes...

You use computer/internet, you sit in a warm cozy roo, eat a foof from refrigerator, etc.
ALL of this because we pump "gigatons of CO2 into the air". Do you want to stop your privileged lifestyle ? Fine, but don' expect many others to follow. Alternatives to "gigatons of CO2 into the air" ? Do you have pocket money to finance trillion dollar restructuring ? To commit to it, public must have a firm confidence in the perils of current way. You/we must prove it, and the burden of prove lies on descredited CRU scientists and their collegues. Gas/oil industry has nothing to prove, just ask you to swith on your computer.

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38. rhodium on December 1, 2009 1:29 PM writes...

Your take on point #1 is one I agree with (and you will always have a few people acting dumb). However, the other points can be refuted, I think. Basically, some researchers are tired of deniers misrepresenting their work and in some cases gaming the system. But arguments over these emails can be seen throughout the web.
What we should recognize is that chemistry has already gone through a similar controversy, with a different outcome: ozone depletion. DuPont and the other chemical companies could have dug in their heels, hired lobbyists and PR firms and done everything to block the Montreal Protocol. Arguments that the models were flawed, that measurements only went back a few years so that the observed changes were within natural limits, that there were no economical freon substitutes, that developing countries would cheat, that the scientists were socialists (many from the People's Republic of Massachusetts) and that less ozone is good for you anyway (after all it destroys rubber), etc. could have delayed action for decades. It seems obvious that had the ozone problem been discovered in today's political climate, it would be facing the same attacks by the same groups climate change is facing. Facts are irrelevant, otherwise everyone would accept evolution.

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39. rob on December 1, 2009 1:48 PM writes...

oxsg: It seems we agree that there are different standards of proof required for claims that suggest we can continue our privileged lifestyle, and claims that suggest we can not.

Bearing makes much the same point.

I can't stop you from having such a double standard, but you (and Derek) should admit this explicitly up front.

And the next time you file an IND with the FDA, add an introduction saying something like "I bet my career (or company) on this compound working. If it fails, this will be awful for my lifestyle. That's why we didn't bother to get any rat PK data."

And should you ever talk to an Indian farmer whose ability to grow food depends on rapidly diminishing glacial runoff, or a citizen of Bangladesh who farms in a delta of what is soon to be brackish water due to rising seas, just tell them this:

"We don't know whether our current lifestyle will destroy your ability to feed your family. We don't care enough to find out. We also don't know whether we can change our lifestyle in ways that will keep it enjoyable without harming you. Again, we've never bothered to find out.

"But as a scientist, I will promise you this: I will spend countless hours scrutinizing any claim that threatens my lifestyle, and hold to the highest possible standards anyone whose views potentially threaten my lifestyle or make me feel uncomfortable.

"Good luck with the whole starvation thing."

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40. Peej on December 1, 2009 2:03 PM writes...


If you look at the tone of some of the emails, its clear that the frustration is due to the politicization of this topic.

You dont have the same aspect of this in the med chem world, but imagine if there was a really, really well funded homeopathy concern who was trying to publish all kinds of data about water memory in Chemistry journals, and after dismissing it and proving it was false, they keot persisting and actually got some things published...

I think thats what the East Anglia people were up against.

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41. milkshake on December 1, 2009 2:09 PM writes...

#37: The Poor Indian farmer whose ability to grow food depends on rapidly-diminishing glacial runoff...

From the most recent study: The best available data do not support the alarmist statements about melting Himalayan glacier.

Geologists R K Ganjoo and M N Koul of Jammu University's Regional Centre for Field Operations and Research of Himalayan Glaciology visited the Siachen glacier to record changes in its snout last summer.
"The field studies from other glaciers in India also corroborate the fact that inter and intra-annual variations in weather parameters have more impact on the glaciers of northwest Himalayas, rather than any impact due to global warming," they said.

"To our surprise, the Siachen glacier valley does not preserve evidences of glaciation older than mid-Holocene, suggesting that the glacier must have advanced and retreated simultaneously several times in the geological past, resulting in complete obliteration and modification of older evidences," they said reporting their findings in 'Current Science'.

Ganjoo and Koul dubbed as "hype" some earlier studies which suggested that the Himalayan glaciers were melting fast and caused serious damage to the Himalayan ecosystem.

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42. startup on December 1, 2009 2:17 PM writes...

Derek, you are wrong in approaching this issue as scientific, it is political through and through. And frankly, I think that from practical point of view this scandal does not matter at all. You either believe in global warming or you don't, and nothing can change that.
But, I would love for this to have happened here, just to see how ORI handles it.

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43. Zippy on December 1, 2009 2:32 PM writes...

Appalling and sad. An example of what can happen when a small branch of science encounters politics, money and attention. #30 is on target concerning the problems with the “science” of climate change raised by these emails.

A distinction can be made between lowering the bar to allow publication of unorthodox ideas and permitting poor science. Avoiding rigorous evaluation of unorthodox (or accepted) theories is unquestionably poor science. The contents of some of these emails seem to imply a lack of enthusiasm to pressure test the models.

Having spent a few years building and testing complex models, I have felt uneasy with the confidence expressed in model projections by climate change debaters. One lesson from study of nonlinear systems is that future behavior can only be predicted for a limited time, even with vast amounts of nearly perfect data supplied to an exact model, none of which are true in climate models. The recent revelations about data substitutions and normalizations amplify these concerns.

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44. rob on December 1, 2009 2:38 PM writes...

Milkshake: Your claim about the glacier is a classic example of the double-standard.

You provide no link for your claim. When I googled it, I found it was published in Current Science. Current Science appears to be a third (fourth?) tier journal, which may or may not be peer reviewed (I can't tell). And yet, somehow this is the "latest science."

There is, however, overwhelming evidence that we are melting glaciers. Around 95% of glaciers worldwide are retreating (so, yes, you can find counterexamples), and their rate of retreat appears to be accelerating. I don't have time to provide links for you, but they're really not that hard to find.

But, apparently, a single paper about a single glacier in a 3rd tier journal outweighs the hundreds of papers in much more respected journals. That's a classic double standard.

As for "the latest science", IIRC the current issue (it may have been last week's) of Science shows a graph with a nice hockey stick curve of how Greenland melting has skyrocketed within the last few years. So, actually, the current science says we are melting glaciers all over the world.

I'm sorry things have worked out this way, since previous posters are quite correct that I rather do like my current lifestyle. But Nature doesn't care about what I like.

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45. Person of Choler on December 1, 2009 2:52 PM writes...

road: "HOWEVER, for some reason, just about everyone who's spent a lifetime studying climatology data appears to come to similar conclusions and to me that's very convincing. You can have all the data-scandals you want, but I'm betting that there's a reason that climate-scientists believe in anthropogenic climate change."

The Roman Curia have spent their lifetimes studying religion, but I don't follow their recommendations for conducting my life because I find the evidence for their beliefs unpersuasive. Same for AGW.

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46. EconRob on December 1, 2009 2:54 PM writes...

Two observations: New PhDs spend most of their brain power trying to discover new things. Old PhDs put their energy into defending previous work - right or wrong.

It seems these AGW "scientists" had a hunch that MM CO2 emissions could cause the climate change. They reduce this hunch to models and gathered data. However backtesting the models and data against observations did not pan out, so they started to tinker with both. Eventually they got a successful backtest that when run forwards confirmed the theory. However, similar to most computer driven trading (remember LTCM) the results do not track the forecasts. At this point you either throw out the model, admit the errors and ask for help from your critics, or go into attack mode.

The AGW types now need tuck in their tails and reach out to the biggest skeptics (big oil or no big oil).

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47. Link on December 1, 2009 2:58 PM writes...

"Lost data" sounds sexy, but it's missing the elephant in the room.

Everything Michael Mann & Co have done is based on their 1,000 year temperature data bank. If this data is bad, their science is bad. It's that simple. This data is mostly based on tree rings.

By 1998, many of these guys had invested years and even decades of work based on tree ring data. It's in 1998 that the "divergence problem" was first recognized: Starting in 1960, tree ring data "diverted" from actual instrument readings. That means thermometers gave one reading, tree rings a different reading.

This is actual scientific proof that tree ring data is suspect. If tree rings don't work for the last 40 years, why do we think they work for the last 1,000 years. If tree ring-based data is suspect, everything that Mann & Co have done is suspect. QED There are other issues with their methodologies, but this is fundamental. This is the elephant in the room.

They say that the "trick" to "hide the decline" was over how they spliced the old tree ring data with the new data from instruments. So they're not denying the elephant in the room. They just hope we don't see it.

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48. Straw Man on December 1, 2009 2:58 PM writes...


That's the beauty of this particular logical fallacy. You don't have to defend the actions of the CRU, since now we're talking about melting glaciers, the Himalayas, and holding Oil Companies to a scientific burden of proof. Well done!

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49. pi* on December 1, 2009 3:00 PM writes...

re comment to Milkshake.

If there is one point this post should raise it is the possibility that perfectly valid science can't get published somewhere better than 'current science' because a select few people will keep everything that disagrees with them out of the literature.

did you happen to notice who were the authors of last weeks 'Science' paper were?

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50. Biker Trash on December 1, 2009 3:01 PM writes...

Consider the outrage if these e-mails had been found in the offices of those who certify, (1) the accuracy of the delivery of gasoline pumps, (2) the safety of elevators and escalators, (3) the composition and proper installations of building materials, (4) the airworthiness of commercial aircraft, (4) the safety of medicines and medical devices, (5) the safety of power plants, (6) the crash-worthiness of automobiles, (7) that Environmental Impact Statements are correct and true, and on and on and on.

There would be no rationalizations, none whatsoever, presented to insist that the e-mails simply reflect Business as Usual. Independent investigations would be started immediately.

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51. bad wolf on December 1, 2009 3:02 PM writes...

Rob is a great example of why answering questions on the internet is pointless. And also how to have the best of both worlds--enjoy a priviledged lifestyle but offset it with lots of complaints and hand-wringing.

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52. K T Cat on December 1, 2009 3:07 PM writes...

As a mathematician (or a recovering one, at least), the whole thing spooks me. If these guys were faking stuff and turning the peer review process into a KGB firing squad operation, then who knows what else has been going on.

There was an earlier comment that bemoaned the lack of funding for research and using that as an excuse for the loss of data. You've got to be kidding. These guys have gorged themselves on S&T funding, sometimes at the expense of other fields of research.

It seems to me that when the data started going the wrong way, they decided to cheat, either to keep the flow of cash coming in or to pursue what equates to a religious crusade. If the latter is true, then East Anglia is closer to a cult than a university.

As for global warming, it's a problem of time scales. 30 years of data in a 4 billion year planetary history isn't much more than noise. If core samples and tree rings are any evidence, it's been hotter before in the absence of man-made conditions. That should give anyone pause before imposing what amounts to fascist economics* upon the rest of the world.

* - Fascism is where you get to keep your private property, but only so long as you do what the government tells you to do with it.

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53. A.W. on December 1, 2009 3:07 PM writes...

For me, the other disturbing thing is this: the sheer banality of it.

They talk about screwing with data, destroying data, blackballing "deniers" like it is nothing, like it has no more significance than ordering a cup of coffee. It says to me that they didn't even find this to be at all weird. And that suggests that they were not an outlier, but part of a larger culture that would be accepting of it.

although given the allegations that the email theft was an inside job, maybe not all of their culture accepts it.

So contra Biker Trash comments, yes, this seems like business as usual among climate change scientists, which is not a defense but an indictment.

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54. CosmicConservative on December 1, 2009 3:09 PM writes...

As many of these comments demonstrate, AGW is a cult at worst and a religion at best. The lack of outrage and demands for prosecution of the offenders and recreation of their results is deafening. People are so wholly invested in their belief that human beings are destroying the planet that even ironclad proof of corruption, conclusion bias, felonious intent and manipulation of data and computer code doesn't even budge them an inch from their position on the subject.

This is an excellent post. Whether global warming is happening or not, whether human beings contribute greatly, slightly or not at all, the behavior of these people is an egregious affront to all that is meant by the word "science." Any person who does not immediately realize that is not worth listening to on any subject whatsoever, much less a subject that is determining the disposition of TRILLIONS of dollars and is making decisions about what sort of LIGHT BULB I can put in my own bedroom lamps.

There truly are DENIALISTS in the AGW debate, but the ones in denial are the ones in SUPPORT of AGW, not the skeptics.

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55. silvermine on December 1, 2009 3:11 PM writes...

When I was in college, I worked in an analytical lab that did contract work for drug companies.

If we did half of what those CRU researchers did, the feds would have thrown us in jail.

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56. RB Woodweird on December 1, 2009 3:13 PM writes...

EconRob sez: "Two observations: New PhDs spend most of their brain power trying to discover new things. Old PhDs put their energy into defending previous work - right or wrong."

Your power of observation needs new batteries. I suggest changing them twice a year. Try doing it when you reset all the clocks in your house.

Maybe, just maybe in academia, and maybe at third-tier junior colleges. But in industry, new PhDs spend a lot of brain power learning where the restroom is. The older PhDs are busy using their hard-won knowledge and experience to solve problems.

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57. ThomasD on December 1, 2009 3:14 PM writes...

Derek's article is a critique on the shoddy CRU effort being passed off as 'science.'

Rob, for all his earnestness, blithely displays that for some this was never a matter of, nor concern for science, but instead has always been a high stakes political endeavor utilizing science as a rhetorical fig leaf.

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58. John Skookum on December 1, 2009 3:16 PM writes...

@rob: "As for "the latest science", IIRC the current issue (it may have been last week's) of Science shows a graph with a nice hockey stick curve of how Greenland melting has skyrocketed within the last few years. So, actually, the current science says we are melting glaciers all over the world."

WE? Who's WE, kemo sabe? Got a mouse in your pocket?

The presence or absence of global warming is a separate question from whether such warming (if it exists) is man-made. Glaciers will melt whether warming is due to anthropogenic CO2 or sunspots or orbital oscillations. Indeed, twenty or thirty thousand years ago there may have been ice a mile deep over where you now sit.

Glaciers melt and form all the time, but the burden of proof is on the alarmists to show that THIS time it's our fault. I found the evidence questionable even before the CRU document release.

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59. milkshake on December 1, 2009 3:16 PM writes...

The reason why I did not provide a link is that to fight the comment spam, all link-containing comments here are automatically held up for admin verification. You can find it yourself by googling it, it was from Spiegel and New Delhi Times.

Regarding Current Science "being third-rate journal" - of course a first rate journal could not have possibly reported a politically incorrect data like that (the long hand of some people from East Anglia has nothing to do with that).

The funny thing is that Greenpeace-like hacks are so eager to advocate for poor farmers in India and protect them from exploitation by Monsanto or man-made drought. If the data get in their way, all the worse for the data and those who produced it.

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60. John Harrold on December 1, 2009 3:22 PM writes...

On the subject of 'lost' data. My understanding is that the CRU collected data from observation sites all over the planet (these are the raw data). These data were then used to generate the models. At some locations, urban outgrowth led to inflated temperatures rendering those locations unreliable:

The research unit has deleted less than 5 percent of its original station data from its database because the stations had several discontinuities or were affected by urbanization trends, Jones said.
h t t p ://

The data associated with these locations were then deleted from the data set used in developing models. These 'raw data' still exist at their respective locations, but were eliminated because they would have led to over predicting temperature increases. If they were not deleted the AGW crowd would be complaining about that.

To me this seems like a nonissue focusing on the words 'deleted data'.

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61. Jeff on December 1, 2009 3:23 PM writes...

Road ...

You are right that unless you are a Climate Scientist you can't know WHY they manipulated their raw data a certain way but nearly everyone with a basic math or science background can check HOW they manipulated their raw data.
Thats the problem, nobody knows how they manipulated the raw data. They have never clearly laid out their formulas or source code for review. And now apparently even they are not able to replicate their own work because of the loss of the raw data (which I call nonsense on as well)

Much of their work involves statistics yet almost none of the leading "Cliamte Scientologists" have any real statistical training much less advanced degrees in statistics. Much of their work has been debunked by people with real statistical training which is why they want to hide their underlying work or should I say their underLYING work ...

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62. Anonymous on December 1, 2009 3:27 PM writes...

To me this seems like a nonissue focusing on the words 'deleted data'.

No, it is misdirection that requires Clintonian levels of parsing.

While it appears that the CRU has deleted the adjusted data from certain stations (essentially removing those stations from the entire set) they have also lost all of the raw data, including that from the stations remaining within the data set.

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63. Dana H. on December 1, 2009 3:28 PM writes...

The entire AGW enterprise appears to be built on confirmation bias. Any alarming claim is not questioned too closely, while any claim that AGW is small to nonexistent is ruthlessly dissected for flaws. Genuine science means ruthlessly questioning *all* the evidence and trying to shoot holes in one’s own hypotheses before advancing them. By this standard, “climate science” (as currently practiced) is an oxymoron. (See the following for the article that prompted this comment:

As for the claim that the conclusion of AGW is robust to the quality problems of the CRU data, I believe that the CRU temperature history is one of only two major land-based instrumental temperature records -- the other being the one from NASA GISS. As noted at and, there are serious quality issues with both the raw and processed GISS data. So it may be that we do not have a single trustworthy record of the change in global surface temperature over the past several decades. I used to assume that we at least knew that recent GW was real, and the real debate was (or should have been) about whether it was anthropogenic. (And I thought that while the GISS data were suspect, the CRU data were probably sound.) Now I'm even questioning that.

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64. Larry J on December 1, 2009 3:32 PM writes...

I'm not a scientist, let alone a climate scientist. I'm not qualified to comment on climate science. However, I'm a professional programmer with over 20 years of experience. That I'm qualified to comment on, perhaps more qualified than scientists.

The computer code at the heart of the scandal is a hyper-kludge. It's the kind of sloppy, poorly implemented code that would earn a failing grade for any freshman computer science student.

The classic computer cliche is "garbage in-garbage out." In this case, the garbage in is undocumented and unverified data that was modified over the years. Much of the original data are lost. Further, we have garbage processing. Garbage input combined with garbage processing is highly unlikely to produce anything but garbage out^2.

Anyone who believes in that output data is being duped. Not only is the output data irreversibily compromised, so are any data products that depend on it. The ripple effects of this debacle are huge.

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65. passer by on December 1, 2009 3:33 PM writes...

@bad wolf: #53
It's not pointless at all. In addition to a real discussion and interesting answers we got a very educational sideshow of Rob demonstrating all kinds of tricks to hide a decline. Very useful demo.

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66. FrancisT on December 1, 2009 3:37 PM writes...

The code is a disgrace and perhaps worse is the lack of code management (version control, archiving, code reviews) that would help improve this.

To take an example there seem to be a number of places where the code does mixed real/integer arithmetic and it is extremely unclear to me whether it gets all the conversions right (in fact in once case is clearly gets it wrong as "Harry" documents an overflow -

The defence that it produces a comparable output to GISS is not exactly encouraging since it seems highly likely based on some of the emails that the CRU people tend to check whether their output is similar to GISS as a sanity check (and quite likely the NASA people to the same in reverse). Furthermore the GISS code is little better in quality as those who have studied it have reported -

I'm sure that any drug company that tried to use either of these codebases as a way to determine the results of complex multidrug combo trials would be told to go back and write it properly. If they did not, but the drug ended up passing and then turned out bad, they'd be sued into the ground by the malpractice lawyers - and deservedly so.

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67. D. Ch. on December 1, 2009 3:37 PM writes...

Everybody here thinks like a scientist (not a surprise, of course) and so has swallowed a camel of an assumption before even beginning to analyze the, relatively speaking, gnats of climate analysis. Historically eras of warm climates tend to be associated with flourishing civilizations and eras of cool climates with civilizations in trouble (war, depopulation, etc.) People just keep sliding over the question of whether or not global warming might not be over all a good thing. It is easy to come up with costs, because all that has to be done is to list the threatened economic goods, but what about new economic opportunities, such as greater arable land as circumpolar areas warm and the tropics stay at about the same temperature? For that matter, what about large amounts of land available to settle on and exploit in newly ice-free areas of Greenland and Antarctica -- Greenland would be green again as it was when the Vikings settled it. The idea that growth and change are almost automatically bad and will hurt all life on earth, and human life in particular, is really a prejudice -- a pre-judgment -- borrowed directly from the green movement. It is not scientific but rather political. Since it is political, and several posters here place great stock in relying on a consensus of the experts in any given field before reaching a conclusion, it is worth pointing out that there is no political consensus, and that there are huge numbers of political (and economic) experts who think that modifying the world's economy in the name of slowing down or stopping global warming would be a big mistake. Just because you, politically, dislike these experts, doesn't prevent them from being evidence against political consensus -- and so by your own statements should stop you from concluding that we must act now to prevent global warming ...

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68. Sergey on December 1, 2009 3:37 PM writes...

Climatology community is recent and small. Statistician's community is old and hundred times bigger. Why there is practically no cooperation? Why statisticians requests for raw data, code and details of methodology are denied and stonewalled? This is a systemic malfunction, and climatologists can not blame anybody except themselves for this obvious failure. Everybody who applied statistics to noisy, inhomogenious and somewhat poorly defined datasets (often is the case in social studies or psychology) knows that choice of methods and procedures can dramatically influence conclusions. Remember the scandal with "Lancet" publication about Iraq war victim count? Without independent audit, all such work is doubtfull.

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69. jpreite on December 1, 2009 3:44 PM writes...

Unfortunately for AGW defenders like rob, the attempt to convince the public by continually saying "all the smart people agree" is failing. The public doesn't buy it, and their skepticism increases as reality defies the models.

The real issue here is what effect Climategate will have on the debate. I'm guessing more skepticism, more onerous demands for openess, and less funding. Game over. People won't sacrifice their way of life for a theory that defies common sense, no matter how loud you keep screaming that they're stupid. Sorry. I guess we're all gonna boil.

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70. Chris on December 1, 2009 3:51 PM writes...

I agree that the behavior by these guys at East Anglia is reprehensible and casts doubt on their work. But let's not lose the forest for the trees: if the causes and effects - even the existence - of global warming are still in doubt, don't we as a civilization have an obligation to err on the side of caution, given how serious the consequences would be if the worst (or even the medium bad-case) scenario comes true? Furthermore, certain scientific facts (that have nothing to do with the shoddy research at East Anglia) seem irrefutable. Glaciers are actually melting. Ice that had existed for thousands of years is suddenly disappearing in a matter of decades. The whole ocean is 0.1 pH units more acidic now than it was 200 years ago - see this Nature article - and getting more so all the time. As a chemist/scientist/person stuck on this earth, doesn't that interest and scare you?
Anyway, I see a couple paranoiacs and their caps lock keys have come out to play, so maybe it's not worth the trouble. Will the last one out of the echo chamber please turn out the lights?

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71. Ted on December 1, 2009 3:56 PM writes...

What troubles me the most is the lack of ethics on this and other "political" matters. We are a society no longer shaped by simple right and wrong based upon the facts. People are discerning right and wrong based on the way it affects their political world view. Hacking is terrible thing if you support AGW theory. It is a good thing if it is a Republican candidate. How about just asking if hacking is right or wrong without context? The same goes for this growing story. The scientist is question did not follow the proper protocols-to put it mildly. If this had been anti-AGW theorists that were hacked and revealed, my guess is the folks defending AGW would be on the other side of this argument--demanding answers. If AGW theory is correct--it is a sad day for the Earth because they have truly hurt, rather than helped their cause. On the other hand, if we discovered their error before embarking upon true global folly--solving a none existent multi-trillion dollar problem, fantastic. Unfortunately, the only results from this series of events is that the AGW theorist must now prove their theory without the disaster data from East Anglia.

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72. ThomasD on December 1, 2009 4:00 PM writes...

given how serious the consequences would be if the worst (or even the medium bad-case) scenario comes true?

You mean like the consequences of implementing sweeping, disruptive, and expensive changes without fully understanding their effects?

Much less having a defined, measurable goal?

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73. BACE on December 1, 2009 4:09 PM writes...

I don't see this issue ever being resolved. This is what we have, this uncertain, incomplete description of a system as complex as the climate. We can never predict exactly what's going to happen. But we can also not just sit there doing nothing. At the same time we don't know what exactly to do.

Under such circumstances, in the end it's going to be only political consensus which is not backed by much sound science that is going to break this deadlock and only time will tell if we are better or worse for it.

As usual, science would have been the casualty.

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74. rob on December 1, 2009 4:12 PM writes...

Things that amaze me:

1) People who have never bothered to read the climate science literature-- or even popular books by scientists-- making strong assertions about the problems caused when scientists only release 95% of their data, instead of 100%.

2) People making strong claims about why climate scientists believe X to be true without bothering to read the papers or books that explain why scientists believe what they do.

3) Statements like "just because the earth is warming doesn't mean its due to heat-trapping gases" which don't take the next obvious step of trying to find out why almost all climate scientists believe heat-trapping gases are the major contributing factor.

4) Conspiracy theorists basing their claims about scientific conspiracies on a few emails. C'mon guys, even the Kennedy Assassination conspiracy theorists had some fuzzy pictures.

5) People reasoning from a conclusion ("I like my lifestyle, and don't want to change it") to a statement about reality ("heat trapping gases are not major contributers to temperature increases").

And, of course, the claim that statements like "releasing gigatons of CO2 causes harm" should be heavily scrutinized, while statements like "releasing gigatons of CO2 causes no harm" should not.

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75. milkshake on December 1, 2009 4:12 PM writes...

"does such behavior take place in other scientific disciplines?"

There has been a very strong publicity drive, bothering on huckster salesmanship, from the string theory community. The string theorist group-think enforcers kept repeating that their theory is beautiful, deep, and "the only game in town" candidate for grand unification, and all the best minds are pushing the frontiers of String theory. It required very extensive training, therefore you needed to be string theorist to appreciate it or make any sensible comments on it. They repeatedly proclaimed to be close to theory of everything and they made public announcements about obtaining an actual proof of the string theory. They hired only string theorists for the faculty positions and they arrogantly ridiculed the string theory critics, to the point that openly questioning string theory claims was very bad thing to do if you wanted a tenure. In that way they made sure that string theory remained the only game in town for decades - inspite of its complete failure at predicting anything.

Some string theory proponents have not changed their tack even after it became clear that the whole edifice is vacuous and instead they advertised the landscape of 10^10^50 predicted possible universes as a wonderful new insight, being aided by anthropic principle mysticism, and accepting funds from Templeton foundation.

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76. VegasGuy on December 1, 2009 4:13 PM writes...

"Climate science" comes in two parts, each with its own problems. Part 1 is historical. What *was* the climate, especially before there were concerted efforts to collect data from around the globe? Answers are fraught with insufficient data, poor collection techniques and contradictions, even up to the present.

Part 2 is predictive. What will the climate be at points in the reasonably far future, "far" being somewhere beyond next week's weather forecast?

Now come the climate scientists who are attempting to develop models to address Part 2. Their technique involves model pseudo-validation, i.e., applying some [incomplete, inaccurate, modified] historical data and looking to see if the model generates results corresponding to more recent data. But wait...

EVEN IF the pseudo-validation process yields results corresponding approximately to recent data, nothing has been proven, because the system under study is not well-understood and no model yet includes all possible influence factors. This effect has already shown up in climate for the last decade which the model in question fails to predict, which effectively makes the data/model combination a special case.

Further, if both the data and the model have been "tweaked" to get a good approximation, and the original data, of questionable goodness to begin with, has disappeared, then essentially nothing of any worth can be said about the model beyond, "Given this particular poor data set and this model, these results are generated." That's simply a single-point observation and cannot "prove" anything even if repeated. And that meaningless "repeatability" will of necessity constitute the sole defense of the climate scammers.

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77. DarrellHuff on December 1, 2009 4:14 PM writes...

Climate science is pseudo-science, at best. The data and models are garbage and the associated researchers have duped governments throughout the world into squandering massive amounts of capital to support a world view rather than verified and validated science. As a scientist, I am saddened by the tendency of so many in the scientific community to excuse and defend scientific endeavors that have violated the basic requirements of the scientific method. If we defend rather than critically evaluate such scientific malpractice, we might as well all burn our college degrees and move to remote islands to await the end of all things.

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78. ras on December 1, 2009 4:14 PM writes...

Haven't read all the comments - too busy - so apologies if I'm repeating a previous point but ... the "lost" data ... are they really saying that not a single other person or organization *ever* validated their adjustments, that there is not a single other person they can call who might still have a copy from their own work?

If the data has been lost as described, that probably means the results were *never* replicated, not even by other AGW supporters. Lamost any normal human being, invloved in such research, would have kept their own copy of the data, no?

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79. Becky on December 1, 2009 4:15 PM writes...

Why would a credible scientist who believes his hypothosis and theories worth betting the farm on, feel he had to hide anything from anyone, especially people who have the background to confirm his work.

I am not a scientist, but have taken a few college level chemistry courses, and understand the importance of keeping a lab book neat and only using one line to cross out a mistake (so it can still be clearly seen). It appears Dr. Jones wanted to use the equivalent of white out, a no no in the lab.

The only scientists that should be given public approval to hide their work are chefs, like KFC's secret recipe.

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80. Derek Lowe on December 1, 2009 4:23 PM writes...

Rob, as for that "95% instead of 100%", if you have even 95% of the raw data from the East Anglia data set, you should do the world a favor and release it. From what I'm reading, they don't seem to have it any more themselves.

And as I've mentioned, I believe that excess CO2 emissions are probably not a good thing. Personally, I like nuclear power. But I sometimes get the feeling that I'm looked at oddly because I'm not immediately sounding the alarm for a total realignment of industrial civilization.

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81. Mark Amerman on December 1, 2009 4:27 PM writes...

To my eyes the big issue is the lack of release of the data and the methods used
to analyze that data. That's been true all along. Long before what occurred in
the last few weeks it seems that a reasonable outside observer would conclude
that numerous papers were published without any real access to the supporting data
and the techniques used to manipulate that data. This goes not only for the temperature
records but also, and probably more importantly, for the climatic models, which
should be our real reason for believing or not believing in man-made global warming.

The East Anglia Climatic Research Unit is not the only scientific institute that
has refused to release their data and the techniques used to shape the data and also
their climatic models. Nasa's climatic research unit is another.

In fact I'm not sure just what portion of the climatic research community does document
their work.

It's odd and very disturbing. To me this isn't science; none of it is. As soon as
you know that people cannot get access to the underlying data or the methods used
to manipulate that data, then in my eyes anyone that claims to be a scientist should
be extremely suspicious and in fact should assume that the research is not above board,
and more, that the people involved, whatever their titles and degrees, may not really
be scientists.

As revealed in the emails, the East Anglia group, which via the emails is linked to
most of the world's climatic researchers, conspired to come up with plausible sounding
excuses for not releasing their data and methods.

This is a much more basic issue than the question of whether something has been
peer-reviewed or not.

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82. Anonymous on December 1, 2009 4:31 PM writes...


Glad to see you've put the Straw Man away and have moved on to ad hominem attacks, instead.

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83. Sili on December 1, 2009 4:32 PM writes...

Thank you for focusing on what this is: a question of scientific conduct.

All that these emails have shown is that scientists are people too.

I should do a better response, but I'll need to read all the previous posts first.

I completely agree that the effort to block 'anti-papers' to be published through means other than peer-review is very bad form. Particularly when pointing to one's own publication record as 'refutation'. That said, I understand the frustration. Peer review has become its own worst enemy in that the public has come to believe that it's the end of the story, rather than just the beginning of the sorting of wheat from chaff. The denialists (and I will not call them anything else), use just that to argue from authority.

If a proposal has some connection with reality, and can be tested, I say put it out there, and the more important the consequences, the lower the barrier should be. (The flip side, of course, is that when some oddball idea has been tried and found wanting, its proponents should go away, to return only when they have something sturdier. That part definitely doesn't work as well as it should.)
This is the big problem. Exactly as the Creationists and the Antivaxxers, the climate denialists do throw out testable hypotheses at times (thought more often it may well not be amenable to testing), and there they leave it. As if an alternative hypothesis is enough to ruin consensus. Yet they don't bother testing their work. They do not ask "how would I know I was wrong?". They're not doing science. They leave it to the professionals to sort through their crap, and tear it apart. They're only interested in FUD.
I support the idea of peer review, and I don't think that every single crazy idea should be thrown out to waste everyone's time.
How do you square this with this?
it was well received by the referees, and so is in the publication pipeline. However, I got the impression that Saiers was trying to keep it from being published.
If the review was in order, what business does the editor have delaying the publication? Permalink to Comment

84. Dave Eaton on December 1, 2009 4:41 PM writes...

milshake said: Regarding Current Science "being third-rate journal" - of course a first rate journal could not have possibly reported a politically incorrect data like that (the long hand of some people from East Anglia has nothing to do with that).

I just noticed some buzz about melting glaciers on Pielke Sr.'s blog. I am not going to fight about the data or interpretation, because I am a chemist and not a climatologist. But, let me excerpt a relevant quote:

"According to Prof Graham Cogley (Trent University, Ontario), a short article on the future of glaciers by a Russian scientist (Kotlyakov, V.M., 1996, The future of glaciers under the expected climate warming, 61-66, in Kotlyakov, V.M., ed., 1996, Variations of Snow and Ice in the Past and at Present on a Global and Regional Scale, Technical Documents in Hydrology, 1. UNESCO, Paris (IHP-IV Project H-4.1). 78p estimates 2350 as the year for disappearance of glaciers, but the IPCC authors misread 2350 as 2035 in the Official IPCC documents, WGII 2007 p. 493!"

2350 vs 2035. A typo in the IPCC report becomes gospel, sort of; Rajendra Pachauri got pretty pissed people were dissing the idea that glaciers were disappearing and actually cited 2035 as when they might disappear.

I'll gladly defer to the experts, but this, and 'climategate', make things look like I should be wary of taking what the IPCC says at face value.

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85. Barry Youngerman on December 1, 2009 4:44 PM writes...

Road (comment 12) wrote:

"just about everyone who's spent a lifetime studying climatology data appears to come to similar conclusions and to me that's very convincing"

But that's apparently not the case. Richard Lindzen of MIT may have more expertise on atmospheric heat transport than anyone else in the world, and he is an utter skeptic. Many others are now surfacing in several countries. Has anyone actually done an independent survey of the relevant specialists? It's long overdue.

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86. Dave Eaton on December 1, 2009 4:47 PM writes...

milshake said: Regarding Current Science "being third-rate journal" - of course a first rate journal could not have possibly reported a politically incorrect data like that (the long hand of some people from East Anglia has nothing to do with that).

I just noticed some buzz about melting glaciers on Pielke Sr.'s blog. I am not going to fight about the data or interpretation, because I am a chemist and not a climatologist. But, let me excerpt a relevant quote:

"According to Prof Graham Cogley (Trent University, Ontario), a short article on the future of glaciers by a Russian scientist (Kotlyakov, V.M., 1996, The future of glaciers under the expected climate warming, 61-66, in Kotlyakov, V.M., ed., 1996, Variations of Snow and Ice in the Past and at Present on a Global and Regional Scale, Technical Documents in Hydrology, 1. UNESCO, Paris (IHP-IV Project H-4.1). 78p estimates 2350 as the year for disappearance of glaciers, but the IPCC authors misread 2350 as 2035 in the Official IPCC documents, WGII 2007 p. 493!"

2350 vs 2035. A typo in the IPCC report becomes gospel, sort of; Rajendra Pachauri got pretty pissed people were dissing the idea that glaciers were disappearing and actually cited 2035 as when they might disappear.

I'll gladly defer to the experts, but this, and 'climategate', make things look like I should be wary of taking what the IPCC says at face value.

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87. milkshake on December 1, 2009 4:50 PM writes...

some climate scientists act like a dude who murdered his parents and then argued in court for leniency on account of being an orphan.

These researchers massaged data, covered tracks, silenced critics and stone-walled unfriendly inquires. When this became clear it was just "a distraction" and "desperate attempt by denialists who have nothing better than stolen e-mails".

As you know, scientists are only human, and this is a perfectly human behaviour - one that you can find both in tribal areas and Chicago 'hoods.

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88. Waymad on December 1, 2009 4:54 PM writes...

Re Harry. His three-year logfile is unflinchingly honest about the data mess he has to wade through, and he documents each successive run in depth. It's also worth checking the state of the GISS temperature data, as ploughed through by another intrepid data expeditionary: E.M.Smith at His conclusions about the GISS record can be summarised as:

- thermometers have declined drastically in number
- the survivors tend to be at low altitudes and at the coast (the 'Florida Snow-bird' phenomenon).
- hence long-run comparisons include the older, higher, colder thermometers and tend to show, quel surprise (to use a Harry phrase), warming.

Derek's main point is worth repeating: when all the academic echo-chamber kerfuffle has died away, we are still all left with a multi-trillion-dollar question:

If That's the state of the 'science' which is going to be used to justify the ongoing penury of our economies, should we vote for that?

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89. David on December 1, 2009 4:59 PM writes...

Climatology is similar to economics which can tell you a little bit of the subject's past but is very unreliable about it's future. Coupled with computer modeling by people who are not software experts and not statisticians what do you think you'll get. To cap it all off enormous amounts of funding available if you can show your onto something especially if it will help save the world.

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90. wg on December 1, 2009 4:59 PM writes...

At first glance it seems that Huxley's famous quote, "The great tragedy of Science - the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact" is apt. However the reality is that there don't seem to be many "facts" that you can hang your hat on. The loss or deletion of raw data taken in combination with the scurrilous behavior revealed in the emails means that all of the CRU findings are worthless or at least need to be completely reproven by independent scientists (if such a thing exists).

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91. Jeffersonian on December 1, 2009 5:06 PM writes...

And, of course, the claim that statements like "releasing gigatons of CO2 causes harm" should be heavily scrutinized, while statements like "releasing gigatons of CO2 causes no harm" should not.

Because the former is a hypothesis that can be accepted statistically whereas the latter is not. Furthermore, the concept of "harm" is subjective, not objective. Given the uninformed statements I've read in your posts, Rob, I'd wager you've never actually run a statistical comparison before. Do you understand the concept of a null hypothesis?

Derek is absolutely right about the level of documentation required to make so much as a single dose of Claritin for consumption in America. Raw materials, processes, controls, everything has to be validated through IOPQ and signed off in rigorously-defined procedures and kept indefinitely for inspection by the FDA. Process data have to be kept for traceability purposes. Electronic record keeping itself is an whole section of the CFR. Contrast that with this AGW shabby process.

That we would even consider mounting a decades-long, multi-trillion-dollar program to remediate something that has been defined so chaotically (is the planet warming, or is it just "changing?") with lost or destroyed data, using buggy black box software is madness in the extreme.

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92. Observer on December 1, 2009 5:06 PM writes...

Phil Jones got fired today.

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93. Rob on December 1, 2009 5:13 PM writes...


1) Thanks for your question about my claim that scientists had only released 95% of their data. I was not referring to East Anglia, but to climate science overall. Most of your commenters interpret this incident as a comment about the state of climate science in general (and its not clear to me that you disagree with this). The overwhelming majority of data that climate scientists rely on has been publicly available for years. Your commenters-- and even you-- tend to select the tiny fraction that not available, and then make wildly unsupported generalizations that this deliberately selected tiny fraction is typical of the rest.

Thus we have statements about the integrity of hundreds (thousands?) of scientists based on a half dozen emails.

One such compilation of data can be found by googling "realclimate data sources." I'd seriously advise your commenters (and even you) to study this data-- or the primary scientific literature, or secondary scientific literature, or even popular science books by climate scientists before leaping to conclusions about why climate scientists believe what they do.

2) I am, however, still awaiting your response why you apply totally different standards of conduct to those who agree/disagree with the claim that "doubling the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is/is not safe."

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94. Barry Youngerman on December 1, 2009 5:16 PM writes...

Road (comment 12) wrote:

"just about everyone who's spent a lifetime studying climatology data appears to come to similar conclusions and to me that's very convincing"

But that's apparently not the case. Richard Lindzen of MIT may have more expertise on atmospheric heat transport than anyone else in the world, and he is an utter skeptic. Many others are now surfacing in several countries. Has anyone actually done an independent survey of the relevant specialists? It's long overdue.

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95. Anonymous on December 1, 2009 5:24 PM writes...

Jiminy crickets, I see people are still trying to provide cover for the "scientific" community after this debacle that may yet fleece taxpayers out of trillions of dollars to pursue a fool's errand to "fix" so-called globalwarming/climate change. Incredible! You know, one good Krakatoa eruption or asteroid impact could start cooling the Earth to the point where we wished man-made global warming was a reality. Are scientists so arrogant as to believe they can tinker with global climate and weather patterns (like the Chinese seeding clouds and altering local weather in their elitists attempt to "improve things") without unleashing the dogs of unintended consequences? Face it, in Earth's history climate has been much warmer than even the wildest claims being made about what global temperatures might be at the end of this century! Maybe in the final analysis a warmer climate is actually desirable and all the apocalyptic pronouncements by pseudo-scientific snake oil salesmen like Al Goracle is only so much BS. Goodness, Warmers treat this pontificating moron like he's some veritable Oracle of Delphi.

Rationalize all you want but from a layman's point of view (that means I have no horse in this race as some here clearly do) CRU books were cooked on this theory of anthropogenic global warming and no amount of gorilla glue is going to put this humpty dumpty back together again ... unless the MSM continues to pointedly ignore this scandal hoping it can be swept under the rug before too many Americans find out about this unethical boondoogle. And what would that get humanity other than some "scientists" can breath a little easier and continue doing the same ol' same ol' and raking in the cash.

And why was there even an attempt by the Warmers to stifle not only dissent among climate scientists but also to paint them as idiotic "deniers" who can't see the "truth" staring them in the face? Well, I ask, WHAT FREAKIN' TRUTH? I would expect this kind of behavior from Nazi scientists trying to "prove" the superiority of the Aryan race, but modern scientists who value truth, honesty, and integrity in collecting and disseminating data in the free market of ideas ... NEVER.

Also as incomprehensible to me is how this could have gone on for so long before a whistle was blown. It's almost cultic in its breadth and scope, a secret cult at that. And were these emails hacked into or did someone within the CRU community leak it to the BBC a month ago? And if so, why did the BBC sit on this brewing scandal for a month? Questions must be asked and answered if this cancerous rot is going to be effectively dealt with in any future debates on AGW.

BTW, the burden of proof isn't on the oil companies or big industry to "prove" man-made global warming isn't happening, it's on those who apparently had political and monetary incentives to postulate that mankind is one of the major contributors to planetary global warming (and for God's sake, quit with the weasel words of "climate change", us regular folks aren't impressed with such cutesy tap dancing on the head of scientific pins).

Now that the mask has been ripped off of this global warming religion ... or fascism ... that has been intimidating REAL science climatologists the last decade or two, I bet for every one climate "expert" who believes with their heart global warming is GOING TO DESTROY THE PLANET EARTH (crack out the sandwich boards about the world ending tomorrow, right?), there are probably three legitimate climate scientists who don't buy into this apocalyptic snake oil that was recently claimed to be "beyond all debate" blah, blah, blah.

Heads better roll and real climatologists (and not some electrical engineer, professional gardener, or some left-wing economist posing as expert climatologists, please) need to tear this whole ridiculous scam down and start rebuilding a workable, verifiable climate model based on real data. It does look like this was a case where data was made to fit the theory and not the other way around.

Now you can keep up the CYA bluster and millions like me will be angered to the point where we will demand that every dollar of funding the scientific community leaches off of hard-working taxpayers dries up until those within the scientific community who actually value openness, honesty and intellectual integrity rise to the top and radically reform the scientific community. Until that happens, I say there has to be a separation of science and state because it's pretty clear how the potential for billions of dollars in research funding is corrupting real, objective, verifiable scientific pursuits as these self-serving political agendas continue to compromise scientists themselves.

BTW, if the temperature data supporting the theory of man-made global warming was so compelling (as some here continue to subjectively suggest) why then the need to fudge the data, lose the data, keep the data from independent review and why all the language in the emails that could even remotely suggest such things? Obviously there were some things about the data that was disturbing these AGW people. And why was that, hmmmmmmm? If I may mix metaphors, where there's smoke there's fire and this whole CRU scandal stinks it up pretty good as it slowly burns it way through the scientific community.

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96. Jeffersonian on December 1, 2009 5:34 PM writes...

I am, however, still awaiting your response why you apply totally different standards of conduct to those who agree/disagree with the claim that "doubling the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is/is not safe.

You are waiting because that's the first time you've posed the question as a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration.

Anyone would be waiting for the answer insofar as any conclusion not based on empirical planetary observation would be dependent on a mathematical model of the planet itself so completely dependent on the assumptions and approximations of the modeler as to make it a work of fiction.

Further it can never be proven "safe" as the safe conclusion is the null hypothesis (i.e. that elevated CO2 concentrations do not cause an increase or decrease in temperature). The null hypothesis can only be rejected or not rejected, never "proven."

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97. Lorenz Gude on December 1, 2009 5:42 PM writes...

I remember noticing somewhere in the middle of my academic career in the humanities that to be a credible academic you had to have an 'agenda' and the choice of acceptable agendas in the humanities was quite narrow. I asked myself - 'What happened to the primacy of truth in academic work?'. 'How did I absorb this essentially political approach?' Years later, near the end of my academic career I was musing as I walked across campus and the words 'We are corrupt!' came up regarding myself and my fellow academics. Nonsense, I said to myself - we don't take money like crooked cops to distort the truth.' 'OH YES WE DO!' came the inner voice. I realized that was exactly what I was doing. I quit within a year. I had always believed that the sciences had fared better, but with large amounts of money and prestige at stake and deeply held political and social belief systems involved why should academic scientists behave any differently than those serving other interests such as corporate interests. I have no reason to doubt that 250 years of industrial revolution has had manifold impacts any more than I have reason to doubt the theory of evolution. As a not entirely useless student of comparative religion I can also discern a millennial pattern running through Western thought. The Christian 'end times,' the Marxist stateless utopia at the 'end of history,' and the green ecological catastrophe. Such patterns influence our worldview and and our social and political beliefs. I have no reason to believed they don't influence our science too.

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98. CB on December 1, 2009 5:47 PM writes...

There is enough observational data that you can physically see to prove that global warming is occurring.

For goodness sakes, we have 40 thousand year old wolly mammoths thawing out of the siberian tundra, combined with vast retreats in the Siberian and North American permafrost.

Written, painted, and photographic evidence of massive of glacier retreat in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Naval observations of ocean temperature and sea level increases.

Botanical shifts in grow zones.

And more recently a relatively ice free arctic ocean that would have enabled the Vikings to discover Asia.

I was kind of hoping for a more scientific discussion from this group, for instance on the pros and cons of greenhouse vs solar mediated changes or the use of isotope effects for prehistoric temperature estimation.

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99. Greg Q on December 1, 2009 5:50 PM writes...

"Road" wrote:

HOWEVER, for some reason, just about everyone who's spent a lifetime studying climatology data appears to come to similar conclusions and to me that's very convincing.

Oh, I agree. The problem is that you're blinding yourself to the conclusion they actually reached.

The conclusion they reached was that their data sucks, their models are essentially worthless, but that they don't care about anything other than pushing their political and personal agendas. Thus they won't let anyone "outside the club" see their data, because if they do get ahold of it, the whole game could be blown up.

You don't need to fight to get journal editors fired for publishing dissenting papers, if you can actually prove that those papers are wrong. you only do that when you KNOW that there are holes, and don't want them exposed.

So yes, by all means, trust the climate scientists. When they tell you that their papers are based upon fraud, that the data doesn't support their conclusions, that the models are jokes, and that their arguments are too fragile to withstand challenge, you should believe them.

And that IS what they're telling us.

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100. Jeffersonian on December 1, 2009 5:52 PM writes...

Yeah, just like we had it in 1932, CB, with this NYT headline: “NEXT GREAT DELUGE FORECAST BY SCIENCE; Melting Polar Ice Caps to Raise the Level of Seas and Flood the Continents”

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101. milkshake on December 1, 2009 5:58 PM writes...

CB: There is a long chain of reasoning that goes like this: There is global warming - and there is a scientific concensus that that human activities are responsible - and we have data and convincing models that clearly predict the impeding catastrophe - and we have the solution - and the prescription is such that we have to immediately and dramatically cut on fossil fuels or we will all be all in serious trouble soon.

Now it turns out that the analysis was force-fitted and the datasets were fudged

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102. pi* on December 1, 2009 6:07 PM writes...

re the ice free arctic ocean and ice melting

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103. Petra on December 1, 2009 6:08 PM writes...

I completely agree with your analysis of the scientific method gone horribly wrong. They are compromising their own reputations and, at this point, it doesn't really matter if their data was sound because these games that they've been playing have ruined any trust that anyone could have in their research. At this point, I'm tempted to say that all research should have to release their data to whomever wants it whenever they want it so that, not only "peers", but anyone at all can try to rip it apart. There is a long way to go to restore trust in science and the scientific method.

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104. Greg Q on December 1, 2009 6:10 PM writes...

Peej writes:

If you look at the tone of some of the emails, its clear that the frustration is due to the politicization of this topic.

Nice try, but no dice. The proponents of AGW have been politicizing the topic from day one, so whining about others responding the same way gets you no sympathy.

Real scientists give the data behind published papers to pretty much anyone who wants to analyze their results. Period. Dot. They don't say 9as Jones did) (paraphrase) "I've been working on this for 25 years, and you're trying to prove me wrong, so I won't give you my data, since all that might do is make it easier for you to attack my life's work."

Nothing that Jones wrote can, or should, be trusted. And once you get rid of his work, and the work that depends on his work, you've pretty much wiped out "climate science".

What should be done is for the journals to announce that no papers will be accepted without a full data dump of all the data the paper is based upon. Which includes all the data behind all the papers cited as references in the current paper. If you run a computer model for the paper, you must include the complete source code for the model, the data you ran it on, and everything else any random person with the appropriate hardware would need in order to run your model themselves.

Because if there's any reason to trust the honesty, professionalism, scientific skills, or judgment of any "climate scientist", they've done a remarkably good job of hiding it.

Harsh? Yes. Overly harsh? No. Real scientists would have called foul years ago, the first time a skeptic was refused access to the data supposedly used to support a published paper.

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105. skatzbert on December 1, 2009 6:21 PM writes...

Ya know, if you wanted to write a science-fiction thriller on a conspiracy to defraud the world by creating a ‘crisis!’, you couldn’t come up with a more exhaustive list of scheming plot devices than these bounders actually did, except perhaps, throwing in a couple of dead bodies here and there.

But those dead bodies would be as nothing compared to the millions who will die if these scientific Machiavellians have their way. The gargantuan economic proposals due to be discussed and quite possibly implemented in Copenhagen will turn the entire world economy upside down and inside out. And as in the DDT debacle, which still gets brushed under the lab mats, it will be those at the economic margins who will starve if this monster is set loose upon us. Those in the more industrialized nations will be luckier; we will merely be bankrupted.

This is the cold fusion of climatology, but these crooks almost got away with it. Heck, they might still get away with it.

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106. milkshake on December 1, 2009 6:33 PM writes...

when the Little Ice Age came and the consequent Great Famine struck in the medieval times, it was an antrophogenic catastrophe as well. Sleeping with other mens' wifes and not giving enough to church were the causes

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107. Anonymous on December 1, 2009 6:34 PM writes...


You forgot hypersonic cavitation generators and bad guys who kill with poisonous octopuses.

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108. Wavefunction on December 1, 2009 6:51 PM writes...

We have to clearly distinguish between explanation and prediction which are two totally different ball games.

Climate change explanation has relied on a lot of careful experimental measurements and therefore is much better established.

Climate prediction on the other hand by definition has to rely on computer models based on past data. Any such prediction of the details of a system as complex as the climate is highly dubious. The same goes for financial forecasting...we all know what happened to that. We have trouble even modeling protein-ligand interactions and protein folding; the climate is orders of magnitude more complex.

My problem is that all the scientists who trust explanation are also trusting prediction and especially its details (you don't need research to predict that generally cutting CO2 emissions may be a good thing). Based on this prediction they want governments to incorporate policies that will have enormous economic impact.

As Bohr said, prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

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109. newscaper on December 1, 2009 7:36 PM writes...

Someone said
"I had (have still even) hopes that climate change would be the thing that got developed countries to be less wasteful, which seems to me to be a good thing regardless of the effect on the planet."

Actually, these days, it is the developING world that is the dirtiest by any conventional standard of pollution. One of the great appeals of jumping on the CO2 bandwagon is that is was the last club to bet the developed world with.

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110. Rob H on December 1, 2009 7:36 PM writes...

To those commenters who don't think the emails and files are a big deal, what would be a big deal? Hadley/CRU and the University of East Anglia are two of the four principal research/data suppliers to the IPCC. Their compiled temperature data (that according to their own people is "garbage"), is the source for the most important claim in the IPCC reports: that there was 0.7C global warming in the 20th century. In fact, in light of these emails, that claim is now unsupported.

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111. Douglas W. Cooper on December 1, 2009 7:52 PM writes...

It seems agreed that 5% or less of the annual emissions of CO2 are anthropogenic, the other 95% or more being from nature. Over the past 100 years or so, the increase in the atmospheric CO2 seems to be on the order of 50%. Normally, one would look to the sources of variability of the large contributor rather than to variability in the much smaller one.

The warming or cooling of the earth is dependent on myriad factors, some known, some likely unknown. The formation of clouds and other aerosols can tend to heat or cool the earth, depending on details not readily modeled.

The "greenhouse" analogy itself is flawed, as a significant part of the increase in temperature in a greenhouse is due to the lack of convective heath transfer, as the walls stop the wind. Blockage of IR radiation by the glass may even be secondary to this.

Mathematic techniques for "prediction" are notoriously sensitive to modeling errors and data input uncertainties. This is captured in the idea of the "butterfly effect." "Past performance is no guarantee of future behavior," we are warned when we consider investments. We are considering very serious investments in CO2 control and the foregoing of use of otherwise usable energy sources. Unintended consequences are too frequent to be ignored.

Any climate change will benefit some and harm others. Historically, warmer periods have been associated with general improvement in prosperity.

Ice ages have come and gone without man's causing the changes. If we are in a period of warming, it is not clearly due to our own activities.

Specialists can easily succumb to group-think.
The banning of DDT satisfied the ecologists, Unfortunately, it led to the return of malaria and the needless death of millions. Fortunately, some of the restrictions on its use have been eased.

Controling CO2 emissions, thus controling much of our energy supplies, would give governments tremndously augmented power over each of us. Power tends to corrupt, as Lord Acton once noted.
Ideological fervor can corrupt, too.

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112. waymad on December 1, 2009 7:56 PM writes...

It's also worth listening to Aynsley Kellow's take on all this. He's an IPCC Expert Reviewer.

But he hasn't succumbed to group-think, and his comments about the 'saturation' effect - that increases in the dreaded CO2 do not necessarily have a linear effect on temperature - are apropos.

Link is at

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113. dearieme on December 1, 2009 8:10 PM writes...

"Climate change explanation has relied on a lot of careful experimental measurements.." What do you have in mind?

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114. Hap on December 1, 2009 8:24 PM writes...

115: You know, climate change skeptics might find more credibility if they didn't require associations with widely debunked theories to support their positions. Data and logical conclusions therefrom will do - the stuff you seem short on.

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115. Tok on December 1, 2009 8:39 PM writes...

All scientists are frauds and we should divert all NIH and NSF funds to subsidies for oil and corn. The earth is flat and there is no such thing as general or special relativity. It's all just a big conspiracy to make people stop believing in God and take all the power for themselves.

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116. Arthur Reader on December 1, 2009 9:01 PM writes...

I am share the sentiments of the blog owner. I am shocked and saddened by the behavior of the Motley CRU and am very concerned that this scandal will reflect badly on all scientists whose work affects the public sphere.

To claim that "the CRU data doesn't matter because other independent data sets confirm" is disengenuous at best and willfully blind at worst. The HADCRU3 dataset is very widely used as calibration for all sorts of environmental models including the climate ones. It is central to the case for AGW that HADCRU3 can be relied upon.

The behavior of the scientists in the exchange was not simply robust, it was incredibly damaging and could scarcely have been worse - the emails shows the principals engaged in perverting the data, conspiring (and sometimes succeeding) to undermine the independence of peer review and of the editorial policies of more than one journal, and the deliberate and conscious obstruction of FOIA requests including a threat to delete primary data rather than comply.

This was and is a cynical and dissembling cabal at the heart of global warming research.

To read these emails any other way sets a new low standard for "denial".

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117. ThomasD on December 1, 2009 9:46 PM writes...

For goodness sakes, we have 40 thousand year old wolly mammoths thawing out of the siberian tundra, combined with vast retreats in the Siberian and North American permafrost.

A tundra that cannot support such life. But at some (presumably warmer) time apparently could...

Wake me when the current ice age ends.

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118. Retread on December 1, 2009 9:54 PM writes...

Derek: you're a brave guy for bringing this up. I've been away all day and haven't had a chance to read all the comments -- hopefully there hasn't been too much vitriol. However, the following is also worth noting.

In the 2 October ‘09 Science on pp. 28 – 29 the data that there has been no change whatsoever in global temperatures for the past decade is presented, along with a reply of the climate modelers.

Modelers reran their simulations 10 times for a total of 700 years and found 17 episodes of stagnating temperatures lasting a decade or more. The longest period was 15 years, so we’ll have an idea of how good the present models are in another 5 years. The modelers would have more credibility if they had published this sort of thing 10 years earlier before the data became available. Did they publish this sort of thing when their models first saw the light of day? — I don't know. Does anyone out there?

The press is full of stories about retreating glaciers, diminishing arctic sea ice, the march of temperate species northward, polar bears found wearing sunglasses, etc. etc. An ice cube will melt given enough time if you set it outside the fridge. Is this what is causing the above — is global temperature already too high and causing these changes? Or are they in fact due to something else? If so what?

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119. Stubbie on December 1, 2009 10:39 PM writes...

The late author Michael Crichton was eerily prescient about the climate debate. See his Cal Tech speech from 2003.

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120. way_to_go on December 1, 2009 11:54 PM writes...

I'm glad that this is being aired out and that the prophets of AGW are getting the publicity they deserve. The science is settled indeed!

I hate to pick on the lone dissenter but rob should recognize that the entire global-warming climate-changing effort has been the scrutiny to the question of whether dumping the air full of CO2 might be bad (and I should think by now that it's taken quite a bit of scrutiny as we are prepared to throw billions upon trillions at it). Now if we could just find someone to do that honestly...

Since we scientists are the smartest people in the world, people should listen to us. Public policy should be heavily influenced by the likes of us, not hammer-head cowboys. Finally we have reached the enlightened age where non-scientists are reacting to our findings, believing the products of our research. The world is no longer flat! The earth is no longer the center of the universe! Here we are.

Micheal Crichton, call your office.

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121. Greg Q on December 2, 2009 12:21 AM writes...

Here's the quote from Phil Jones:

"Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it"

That is not the response of a scientist.

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122. Wlobal Garming on December 2, 2009 12:33 AM writes...

In case anyone missed this:

"Hide the Decline"

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123. Steven on December 2, 2009 1:26 AM writes...

"That is not the response of a scientist."

One thing people don't seem to understand about this is that climate scientists do not think skeptics are acting in good faith. Which is why they are reluctant to give the data.

Imagine this, someone reads your paper and emails you for the data/code. You send them it. Later you read a blog entry that nitpicks your work and also insinuates scientific misconduct. They also seem deeply confused about the science. Somehow the media picks up the story and takes the claims of your critic at face value. And then this person asks you for data again....most people would say bugger off at this point.

I really don't agree with the stonewalling on releasing data. But having met several people mentioned in the released emails I can see where they are coming from.

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124. bcpmoon on December 2, 2009 4:03 AM writes...

Wow, there are a lot of oil shills around today...
Just kidding. But where is the real money to be made: At the CRU or as a lobbyist for Exxon?
Also, the "argument", that a lot of scientists are in disagreement with AGW reminds me very much of Project Steve.
Also, as I understand, the raw data came from the meteorological societies of countries all over the world and was not allowed to be given to third parties. Sooo - the data is still there...
Also, AGW is the only game in town, or is there another model, which comes to different conclusions based on the data? Oh, the data is lost - oh no, its not! Back to the drawing board... The argument is still sound: Backed by the billions of dollars from oil companies, why were those "scientists" not able to come up with a more concise explanation for GW? Perhaps GW is too complex - even irreducibly complex?

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125. srp on December 2, 2009 4:44 AM writes...

The idea that the oil companies have anything to do with the conclusions of Climate Audit or Wattsupwiththat or the Pielkes or Lindzen requires proof. Otherwise it is both irrelevant (to the logic of their arguments) and a smear.

Most of the skeptical scientists have far less funding than the huge amounts NASA and various other government organizations have been pouring into research predicated on the alarmist perspective. Furthermore, there are huge vested interests, such as T. Boone Pickens, Shell, and Al Gore's investment group, pushing hard for subsidies to so-called renewable sources. Not to mention all the finance types and other operators who seek to make a killing trading emissions permits under a cap and trade system.

I don't mind a little demagoguery from the alarmists, but do they really need to sound like such rubes?

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126. milkshake on December 2, 2009 6:31 AM writes...

self-righteous hustling rubes

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127. erikson on December 2, 2009 7:22 AM writes...

Communications tactics for climate change.
The game is changing behaviours;
the rules will help us win it:

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128. provocateur on December 2, 2009 7:23 AM writes...

To all the global warming guys...


Its like publishing a thesis without nmr's.

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129. Anonymous on December 2, 2009 9:33 AM writes...

Nice take on GW by a commentator in Daily Telegraph:
Nigel Lawson on climate change: 'Saving' the planet will be the real disaster

Charles Moore reviews 'An Appeal to Reason’ by Nigel Lawson.

By Charles Moore
Published: 6:22AM GMT 02 Dec 2009

This book appeared last year, but I am reviewing it now because I have noticed that its arguments are beginning to catch fire. It is a well-known feature of British culture that we usually come to the right view about something in the end, but only after we have indulged the wrong view for too long. This helps to explain why Nigel Lawson had such difficulty in getting this book published. But as the Copenhagen summit on climate approaches, people are at last beginning to question whether it can really be true that we have only – as Gordon Brown has said – a few days in which to "save the planet". "Nations will vanish and millions lose their homes to rising seas," shouted a headline in a serious paper yesterday, carefully on time for Copenhagen. But we are wearying of being terrified by what are essentially speculations.

Lord Lawson is highly unusual in being an intellectual who has also held political office at the highest level (he was Mrs Thatcher's chancellor). He can therefore master, dissect and expound argument without forgetting how ideas and ideals can be grotesquely distorted by politics. He was also a good journalist, so he can explain things in clear English.

This admirably short book is simple. It goes through the claims made by the principal promoters of action against global warming, and subjects them to analysis. Lawson is careful to choose mainstream bodies or sources – the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Stern report, Al Gore – rather than the lunatics who pullulate at the fringe. But he succeeds in showing that even these apparently respectable institutions and individuals pullulate quite dottily enough.

Take the IPCC's predictions of what might happen 50 or 100 years hence. The idea that this can be done with any accuracy, says Lord Lawson, is "inherently absurd". "We have only to ask ourselves whether the Edwardians, even if equipped with the most powerful modern computers, would have been able to foresee the massive economic, political and technological changes that have occurred over the past hundred years," he says.

But even if you accept the IPCC predictions, look what happens. The IPCC says that world temperature will increase by 2100 by somewhere between 3.2F and 7.2F. A warming of half way between these two points works out at an average temperature increase of 0.05 degrees F per year. In the last 25 years of the past century, temperature increased at the rate of 0.04 degrees per year. (In this century, it has not increased at all!) Has this proved so appalling to manage?

Lord Lawson then notes that the IPCC predicts that, at this level of temperature rise, global food production will actually increase. He takes the IPCC's gloomiest prediction of the economic effects of global warming over the same period. By its own figures, the difference between what would happen with global warming and without it amounts to this: in a hundred years' time, people in the developed world would be "only 2.6 times better off than they are today, instead of 2.7 times, and their contemporaries in the developing world would be "only" 8.5 times as well off as people in the developing world are today, instead of 9.5 times better off".

So this is the projected catastrophe, to avoid which the people of the present generation are being asked to curtail their carbon emissions by 70 per cent. We must tighten our belts for future generations, who even the gloom-mongers believe will be much, much richer than we are. This is not science, politics or economics, but masochism. Or rather, since our leaders will, on the whole, exempt themselves from the punishments they want to impose, it is sadism.

It is immoral to restrict definite, present benefits in the name of indefinite, distant ones. India and China are currently performing economic miracles which, for the first time, have made hundreds of millions of their citizens comfortably off. They can't do this without increasing their carbon footprint. Should they be forbidden from doing so on the basis of uncertainty piled on uncertainty about what might happen a century hence?

Unlike most politicians, Lawson notices that all the agreements made to control carbon emissions do not work. Sometimes this is because they are not, in fact, agreed. Sometimes it is because they are evaded (Canada, which signed Kyoto, has increased its emissions much faster than the United States, which refused to do so). Ultimately, it is because the idea of world government which lies behind such deals invariably collapses in the face of reality.

But this does not mean – and here Lord Lawson is optimistic – that people will not find ways of dealing with climate change if (and it is only if) it really is happening. Stern, Gore, the IPCC etc speak as if human beings will not do the one thing most characteristic of civilisation – adapt. There is no disaster facing us which we cannot mitigate by changing our behaviour over time. The real disaster will be if we cede to politicians what the author calls the "licence to intrude" in everything we do by pretending to "save" a planet which no one has proved will be lost.

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130. Larry J on December 2, 2009 9:34 AM writes...

I think it's now official: "Climate Science" is the "Women's Studies" of the scientific community.

Can't find actual data to support your theories? Make it up!

Can't get the computers to give you the output you're expecting? Fudge the numbers and kludge the code!

It'll be a long time before any of the Climate Scientists will have any credibility.

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131. gyges on December 2, 2009 9:48 AM writes...

What a terrible state British science seems to be in at the moment.

We have someone who decided to whore herself when writing up her PhD thesis because she ran out of money. She wrote about her experiences under the name of Belle de Jour.

We have a UK gov minister sacking a gov scientist because his results didn't fit in with the current political policies regarding marijuana.

We now have the Climate Research Unit email hack: for details of which, see Derek's post above and comments.

The climate research units behaviour is potentially fraudulent and potentially breaches the Freedom of Information Act. Therefore, two independent gov agencies (CPS and Information Commissioner) may investigate them. As to whether or not they will ... watch this space.

Anyone want to fund research in Blighty against this backdrop?

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132. It Doesn't Matter on December 2, 2009 9:50 AM writes...

"Most of the skeptical scientists have far less funding than the huge amounts NASA [...] have been pouring into research predicated on the alarmist perspective."

LMAO. OH man I can't breathe.... I haven't laughed that hard in a while. I can never figure out why people think NASA has "huge amounts" of money to spend on every little thing.

I know it's not really relevant to the discussion but I had to point that out.

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133. bandit on December 2, 2009 10:39 AM writes...

One major problem with way too many academics is that they feel that being questioned is the same as being threatened and that telling people who disagree with them that they're stupid is a good argument. In the immortal words of LiLo " Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter".

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134. SP on December 2, 2009 10:41 AM writes...

Tim Lambert takes apart several of these issues:
In particular, regarding the code that people claim artificially creates the "hockey stick"- it turns out that they generated the coefficients in active lines of code, but the lines that actually use those coefficients are commented out. Also, the data would have been labeled "corrected" and not presented as the raw data, and the paper that used that code did not publish this modified data anyway. Basically it looks like this part of the code was something they tested out but ended up not using.

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135. CB on December 2, 2009 10:53 AM writes...


Some of the most powerful data is seeing in person 10,000 year old glaciers that will be gone in the next 20-40 years. Reading about 40,000 year old wooly mammoths thawing out and vast shifts in permafrost is a close second. Both of these observations point to the world being significantly warmer than it was at least 10k years ago, since these are all things that can be reliably dated.

Vast piles of data exist, in my opinion, the most convincing data was not collected for climate studies, my favorite data are satellite records, followed by isotopic analysis of sediment and glaciers, both of which are independent of direct temperature measures.

NASA is my favorite site for satellite temperature and gravitational measurements.
(full disclosure; I have been a NASA fan since I was a kid)

Since the CRU is a repository and not the original source of the measurements this seems overblown.

So far the detractors haven't put forwared serious alternative climate predictions that dont include greenhouse drivers (CO2, MeOH, N2O).

Lack of data and predictive models is what differentiates creationists and hippy spiritualists from scientists.

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136. SP on December 2, 2009 11:04 AM writes...

Someone above asked for actual links to the 95% of raw data that hasn't been "lost"- so here you go:
Someone else asked about testable hypotheses. Ok, how about increases in sea levels due to melting ice caps? In 1990 the IPCC predicted a range of sea level rises by 2010 from 1.5 to 6.5 cm. Well, we're almost there, and they've compared the prediction to measurements from satellites, and it's: 6 cm.

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137. Mark Amerman on December 2, 2009 11:37 AM writes...


It's my understanding that the massaged data set has not be lost,
or has mostly not been lost, but that what has been lost is the raw data
that matches up with the massaged data and also what methods were applied
to the raw data to generate the massaged data.

One would think that there were would be enough of a correlation
between the raw data and the massaged data that one would be able
to figure out which goes with which. Amazingly this seems not
to be the case.

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138. SP on December 2, 2009 11:54 AM writes...

I don't think the problem is so much with a direct transform from raw to analyzed data, but more with which raw data were excluded and for what reason. For example, a thermometer in the middle of nowhere in 1950, like a swamp in Florida, could be in a dense suburb by 2000, ruining the results. The annotations of data sources was poor so they can't determine which measurements are affected by problems like this; the raw data itself is still available.

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139. cookingwithsolvents on December 2, 2009 1:29 PM writes...

This whole thing is a HUGE mess. I'm quite shaken by the data cooking. It goes against everything that science is.

Now, as to the ongoing arguments about climate change I have some comments:

Regardless of whether or not the planet is heating or cooling, the source of any potential climate/temperature changes, and whether any potential changes in climate/temperature would raise or lower the "average" person's quality of life, our western culture is living unsustainably. The industrial revolution and the benefits thereof are fractions of fractions of an instant on a geologic time scale. If we want mankind to last long enough to be a fraction of an instant of geologic time we need to more efficiently utilize the resources we have. A tank of gasoline could have made a LOT of plastic (not to mention other fine chemicals, including the many amazing drugs which prolong and improve western culture's quality of life). There are a lot of people in the world that want access to the prosperity western culture enjoys and, quite frankly, deserve it.

The opportunity to develop new technology and install it in underdeveloped countries to simultaneously improve their quality of life (avoiding dealing with a legacy grid, etc like we have in the EU or USA...using PV as an example) while remaining as sustainable as possible is not to be ignored.

Innovation has always been a contributor to economic success. There is a ton of money to be made by efficiently harnessing solar energy. I don't know how much economic help those industries need to get started (or what form it should take i.e. carbon taxes?) but I DO believe that a huge economic boom will result if one can provide energy (in all forms, including protein sources...veggie vs animal, electricity, transportation, manufacturing, building HVAC/design) cheaply to underdeveloped regions. I just hope that humanity uses this boom as an opportunity to do it sustainably.

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140. Wavefunction on December 2, 2009 3:12 PM writes...

My take on it.

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141. waymad on December 2, 2009 3:13 PM writes...

I modestly propose an accounting, transactional-style data structure for the successor temperature databases of the world.

This way, the raw measurement can never be lost by overlays and adjustments from whatever source.

This structure has worked for accounting since Pacioli's time in the late 1400's.

Time the climate gate-keepers invested in some 14th century techniques, methinks.

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142. srp on December 2, 2009 5:16 PM writes...

Compared to the zero money received by McIntyre and Watts, the NASA and other budgets are vast. The ratio is infinite, in fact.

Of course there's the UN and EU money, too, to consider. Somehow Phil Jones at CRU got 13 million pounds (not all of which seems to have been spent appropriately, judging from some of the emails). NASA was a contributor.

I also note how the private interests who profit from the proposed climate policies somehow continually get overlooked, even though Shell, for example, is constantly funding AGW propaganda. Not to mention GE, whose profit stream is expected to be heavily affected by subsidized windmill construction. Get your head out of the sand.

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143. big al on December 2, 2009 6:40 PM writes...

The search engines seem to be part of it. As I understand it, they can be “paid” to move your search entry to the start of the search when you search for things like “climategate” or “global climate hoax”. I’m sure that paying them off is a pricey way to try to control public opinion but it is pretty clear that George Soros and his ilk are playing for keeps to rob us of what little liberty we have left.

I suggest you read the titles clearly because some of the warming propaganda is entitled in such a way that you might think it is providing the information you want but giving you a drawn out article that repeats the warming mantra.

At the end of the day it is all about integrity, and I have seen very, very little integrity evident here. First the CRU gang is exposed for the unethical thugs that they are, then their database and crappy fortran code is shown to be a very poor representation of “climate science” and lastly, to cover up for their sloppiness they subvert the peer review process so there is no one who can call them on it. First evidence of poor ethics.

Secondly, the mainstream media, sensing that their mantra has been seen through, and that their control of this issue is slipping away from them pulls out all of the stops to obfuscate the entire issue. Out come the “journalists” repeating the mantra “settled science” “settled science”. Second evidence of poor or non-existant ethics.

Lastly, our esteemed political leadership ignore the topic or hide behind their clueless spokesmen. “ahem, it is all settled science and copenhagen should go ahead”. Last and biggest evidence of poor ethics.

Thank goodness there are people with backbones down under that can serve is a good example of people protecting their liberty from the sleazy political opportunists that are seeking to make us all “world citizens”

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144. Jonadab the Unsightly One on December 2, 2009 10:10 PM writes...

It's illogical to expect climate-change people to behave like scientists. They're not scientists. They're politicians, or philosophers. Fundamentally, climate change research *can't* be scientific. It's an unreasonable expectation.

In the first place, even if all the raw data ever collected were freely available to the public in full, there are still, grand total, less than a hundred years' worth of complete worldwide data and less than two hundred years of moderately complete data for mostly just the northern hemisphere. For anything further back than that you're looking at small handfuls of spotty and inconsistently calibrated observations made by explorers and local weather watchers who mostly didn't compare notes or even use the same units.

Two hundred years, then. If we know *anything* about climate change, it's that it normally takes place over much longer periods of time than that. Trying to predict long-term climate trends based on less than two hundred years of data has more in common with tasseography than with real science. Realistically, on a *good* day you're not going to be any more precisely accurate than the farmer's almanac.

Additionally, any meaningful experiment that could possibly be devised to test any particular idea about how climate change works would be highly unethical to conduct. Even if you could set scruples aside, such an experiment would also require the cooperation of pretty much the entire world, which is not likely to be reliably forthcoming. Even if the whole world did cooperate, the experiment still wouldn't be controlled (because we've only got one Earth to work with) or blinded.

In your drug discovery research, do your findings typically rely exclusively on computer simulations and re-analysis of old data, or do you conduct new, controlled, repeatable, double-blinded experiments? See the difference?

The only way I can think of for climate change researchers be scientific would be to do some *other* kind of research in their free time. The scientific method isn't really applicable to the question of climate change.

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145. bcpmoon on December 3, 2009 1:47 AM writes...

Jonadab, you know that these are the exact arguments brought forth against evolution. That in itself speaks against them. I am sure that a climate researcher (more often than not a physicist or chemist) would strongly disagree with he "no historical data" argument. Icecores come to mind.
I think the final outcome of this hack will be a deepened distrust of science and scientists in the public. And for a simple reason: Instead of defending the scientific method and pointing to the data and analyses and/or repeating the analyses where the raw data is "lost", the scientific community acts as politicians. For my part, if I am not an expert, I refrain from critique. I would not tell a plumber how to fix my piping and I would not dream of telling a scientist outside my own field that he is a moron who couldn´t hold a hockey stick the right way around.
When the last IPCC-Report came out I checked how it was created and who was involved - but how should I assess the science? When I learned that the predictions were the lowest common denominator, it was ok, as ok as science goes.
And again, just pointing at flaws in the theory is not sufficient. That the data is lost is a lie and anybody who wants to shoot down AGW has to come up with a better explanation for the trends we observe.

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146. PaulM on December 3, 2009 8:07 AM writes...

Looks like Phil Jones is the Madoff of climate science

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147. alig on December 3, 2009 8:29 AM writes...

I don't know how many of you work with computer models of binding sites, but when I look at the computer models of climate, I always think about the models I am familiar with and how predictive they are. So I will give this example: after working on a target for a couple years we had about 2000 data points from compounds binding to a target. I wanted to prioritize some chemistry I was planning to do so I gave our molecular modeler 10 compounds to model. He said 6 looked good and 4 didn't (there was more refinement than that, but just for simplicity). I ended up making all 10, and 4 of the 6 predicted to be good were good and 2 of the 4 predicted to be bad were good (1 of these was the most active of the set). The modeler's conclusion was that his model was good because a higher precentage of the predicited compounds turned out to be active. My conclusion was that the model was useless because it didnt predict 2 of the compounds that were active. I feel that the models of binding sites are much better than the models of the earth's climate. Even much more so now that I know that the scientists involved are even attempting to find the truth but rather the answer that gives them the most power and money.

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148. Demosthenes on December 3, 2009 9:54 AM writes...


You Med. Chemists never pass up an opportunity to ridicule your modeling colleagues, do you?

So, by your definition, a model that is not 100% accurate is useless? So, if the modeler had a 60% accuracy rate, what was yours? If you were predicting all 10 were active, then you had a 60% accuracy as well. How about those 2000 compounds? What was the med. chemists hit rate there? I've talked to very experienced med. chemists who estimate that their personal hit rate is 20 - 30% based on their experience. I'm guessing that most of those 2K compounds weren't very potent. So, I suspect that you're modeler's predictive success rate was higher than your team of chemists.

What if you had to pick from 2000 compounds to make? Or, what if you could only make six out of the ten compounds? Isn't it significant that the model identified the most potent compound? But, the most important question of all is: Did the model make specific, falsifiable hypotheses, and did the results you obtained allow for the refinement of the model?

There's a deeper issue here that's tangentially related. I hate to say it, but most people who call themselves scientists have no clue about the scientific method. The purpose of modeling is not to "get the right answer", but rather to develop testable hypotheses that allows experiments to be carried out that generates data that drives the project forward. My colleagues and I get blue in the face telling med. chemists this, but you guys never seem to get it.

Chemists I've worked with usually make compounds because "they're easy to make" or because "they have the materials readily available". When asked them what hypothesis they are testing, the answer is usually a blank stare. This is the mentality that results in 2K - 3K compounds being made in the hit-to-lead phase of the program over a 2 - 3 year period. Then chemists at big pharma wonder why they're getting laid off by the thousands . . .

But this cock-sure attitude toward modeling doesn't stop there. I've seen chemists come up to biology associates at their desks, stand over them and yell at the top of their lungs when a compound didn't show the "right" activity because the chemist "knew" it would be active. I've also seem chemists march into biology labs and take the sample of compound right from a biologist's hands, march down to the mass spec / NMR to "prove" that the biologist had mixed up the sample. In eight years at three different companies, I've seen a biologist mix a sample up ONCE. (Chemists, however have mixed up samples on a seemingly routine basis at two of the last three companies I worked for . . .)

I've also seen med. chemists rip into pharmacologists because the PK or bioavailability data was "wrong". One med. chemist lectured our executive director of pharmacology who had 30+ years of experience in the field that based on his (the chemist's) extensive experience in pharmacology, it was impossible for a minor change in a compound to illicit a large change in bioavailability.

Stop pretending like you are gods. Start thinking like scientists. And treat your colleagues in other fields with more respect.

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149. alig on December 3, 2009 4:36 PM writes...


You missed my point entirely. The modeler was good, the computer model was of limited value. I am comparing computer models of binding sites where lots of data exist to develop them to computer models of the earth's climate where less data exist. I believe that predictive computer models that do not accurately predict are not useful.
And you must have worked with some real a*holes of med chemists to have the attitude you do. Every molecular modeler I have worked with, save one, were very intelligent and very clear at the limitations of their models. I feel the climatologists have not been clear at articulating the limitations of their models.

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150. Wavefunction on December 3, 2009 5:41 PM writes...

Alig, as a molecular modeler I agree. The goal of modeling is really to generate ideas, not model "reality". As you mentioned, most modelers are intelligent enough to realize their models' limitations. See my post.

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151. Garreth on December 4, 2009 5:35 AM writes...

Nature debunks 'Climategate'

Is Nature 'in' on the 'plot' too?

According to what motive?

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152. oxsg on December 4, 2009 7:26 AM writes...

Gareth, Nature published the (in)famous '98 paper which is apperently based on bogus modelling and massaged data. It should either retreat paper or defend at all cost. It chose the later.

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153. retread on December 4, 2009 7:44 AM writes...

#151 Garreth

The Empire Strikes Back

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154. Roger Knights on December 4, 2009 8:11 AM writes...

"So where are the safety data showing that pumping gigatons of CO2 into the air is an OK thing to do?"

Right on! (And this amount pales in comparison to their emissions of dihydrogen monoxide.)

"Is Nature 'in' on the 'plot' too? According to what motive?"

They've drunk the Kool-Aid. Here's a critique of the editorial on the WUWT site:

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155. IDON on December 4, 2009 8:56 AM writes...

Although personally reclusive (for personal reasons that would seem obvious to your audience) I feel I should post some brief comments in support of the CRU.
Like that admirable body, I too have been involved in data collection on a similar but perhaps more critical issue – namely biological climate change.
AS you may know - increasingly among what remains of our race are aliens masquerading as humans. Such species take many forms (see and
Sadly to date – despite startling warnings from fellow believers (John Carpenter, Kenneth Johnson) - the larger world remains sceptical – despite the presence of a substantial and comprehensive data set that documents this phenomenon.
In this regard I have been solely responsible for raw data collection of all reports (…since that seminal warm summers night in 1981..) and indeed have devoted my life since to this project .
Like Professor Jones – I too had concerns regarding adequate data storage. By sheer circumstance, one serendipitous legacy of my personal close encounter was the installation of an advanced (for any time) Farscaped discTM implanted in my subgyrus with an almost infinitesimal storage capacity. Happily – this has allowed me to back up and store all such data – both raw and processed. Unlike the CRUs data, this is available to all and can be readily accessed (by investigators endowed with a similar subgyral capability). However, I do understand Professor Jones’ decision – the cost of warehouse space in East Anglia is significant.
This perhaps is a moot point – for, like he, I would suggest that it is not unreasonable to expect the world to accept the interpretation of someone who has devoted his whole career to a major climatological calamity as honest and objective, and beyond reproach. Critics often have more ulterior motives. Opponents (for their own financial and bio-political reasons) have continued to deny me access to the larger scientific community - and indeed (via the aforementioned disc – a double-edged sword) track my movements constantly to prevent my embarking upon a public awareness initiative

Be reassured - my own modest contribution to this issue shall continue.

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156. Glen on December 4, 2009 3:43 PM writes...

The best analogy I can think of is Surgeon General C. Everett Koop

In 1988, the surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, proclaimed ice cream to a be public-health menace right up there with cigarettes. Alluding to his office’s famous 1964 report on the perils of smoking, Dr. Koop announced that the American diet was a problem of “comparable” magnitude, chiefly because of the high-fat foods that were causing coronary heart disease and other deadly ailments.

He introduced his report with these words: “The depth of the science base underlying its findings is even more impressive than that for tobacco and health in 1964.”

Cascade Science. It happens all the time. Fred Gage proved adult based neurogenesis. Barry Marshall and Robin Warren proved the role of H.Pylori in ulcers. Darwin, Galelaio, the list goes on.

Being wrong in science is a good thing. As Francis Bacon and Thomas Huxley said..

"truth came out of error much more rapidly than it came out of confusion"

"Next to being right in this world, the best of all things is to be clearly and definitely wrong, because you will come out somewhere. If you go buzzing about between right and wrong, vibrating and fluctuating, you come out nowhere; but if you are absolutely and thoroughly and persistently wrong, you must, some of these days, have the extreme good fortune of knocking your head against a fact, and that sets you all straight again."

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157. Starwatcher162536 on December 5, 2009 11:59 AM writes...

@Derek Lowe

Thanks for this post. The biggest thing I was uncertain of about this story, was how much I should care about them trying to remove a gatekeeper who was (To them) not rigorous enough in evaluating a paper's worth. I have been told elsewhere that all they were doing is trying to keep GRL from becoming the next E&E, and this kind of practice is common across many fields.

It's useful to know there is dissenting opinion on that (From sources that don't think AGW is debunked every 6 weeks).

Btw, why is it you place such high value on the dataset where the most egregious case of missing data occurred?

I'll have to look this up later, but I believe that briffa's proxy was suppose to be among one of the least weighted proxies (Was weighted less then 10% of what the highest weighted one was).

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158. Tony on December 6, 2009 10:46 AM writes...

See Al Gore’s response to Climategate here

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159. Mutatis Mutandis on December 6, 2009 12:47 PM writes...

On the little matter of computer models... I've got nothing against cheminformatics modellers... some of my best friends are cheminformatics modellers. But face it people, the assumptions underlying most modelling work on compound-protein binding are rather naive and the real surprise is that modelling is useful at all. The problem is not with the skill of the modeller, but with the underlying data: We know little enough about the real conformation of proteins in vivo, and next to nothing about their changes in conformation, which are becoming more frequent the more you look at them.

In comparison, climate models are sophisticated and effective, because they address the dynamics of the system much better, but also because we have more relevant data. When compared against historical data, many climate models do a rather better job of explaining the trends than the best cheminformaticians can do of predicting the binding configuration of a small molecule, or even the statistical hit rate of screening campaign.

But the debate about the use of computer models in climate prediction is a bit of red herring. Here's why: Without the computer model, you can only fall back on the simplest set of physics formulas. And these say... that temperatures will rise if you increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, because the greenhouse effect has such a big impact on are climate. The computer models are just a refinement.

As for the behaviour of the scientists at the CRU: I cannot approve of it. But I we need to understand that people are driven to such practices by the knowledge that their writings will not just be read and examined by their scientific colleagues, but by a horde of so-called climate 'skeptics' who will try to pick it apart with little knowledge and even less intellectual honesty. Defensive writing is a horrible thing, and scientists should not be forced to act as if they were lawyers trying to guard against any possible hostile interpretation or weaselling sophistry. But it happens.

And let us admit that we in the pharmaceutical industry are not entirely unfamiliar with suggestions that we might wrap our data in language that avoids that readers reach conclusions that are undesirable from a certain perspective...

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160. Smitty on December 8, 2009 11:45 PM writes...

There is a lot of bad science by a lot of posters on this comment thread.

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161. axel on December 9, 2009 1:30 AM writes...

CRU statement in response to 'data loss' claims:

No data has been lost. The collection of land surface air temperature data by the Climatic Research Unit goes back to a time when there was insufficient computing data storage capacity to retain all versions of data records on computer - unlike today when all versions may be kept thanks to greater storage capacity.

Sometimes quality control will have been undertaken in CRU and, in the case of some records that were first assembled during the 1980s, it is the quality controlled data and not the original raw data that have been kept in digitised form. How these figures were arrived at is explained in published scientific papers from which the raw data could be retrieved.

Much of the earlier data exists in World Weather Records volumes (published by the Smithsonian Library) and, of course, original data will still be available from the appropriate national meteorological services.

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162. Derek Lowe on December 9, 2009 11:07 AM writes...

This sort of thing worries me, I have to say:

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163. Tok on December 9, 2009 1:17 PM writes...

Why not link to the original blog post at Watts Up with That, rather than the slimmed down version at The Volokh Conspiracy?

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164. Hap on December 10, 2009 12:27 PM writes...

Here's another summary:

Dr. Lowe's summary is referenced in context as well.

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165. retread on December 17, 2009 9:09 AM writes...

My 2 cents on all this being too long to appear here has led to today's post on Chemiotics II: The Empire Strikes Back -- Nature on Climategate

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166. Chemistry Major on December 17, 2009 10:26 AM writes...

The fact that Jones and other leading supporters of AGW theory refused to disclose their data and their computer code has been known for years. This should have had any honest climate scientist (whether pro or contr AGW theory) screaming in the journals and at conferences. Their silence calls into question their competence and their integrity.

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167. orjin krem on January 31, 2011 7:15 AM writes...

This sort of thing worries me, I have to say:

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168. tv ünitesi on March 16, 2011 11:22 AM writes...

"The climate change issue has become the world's most powerful religeon. Science has nothing to do with it anymore and hasn't done for quite some time."

I absolutely agree with Evorich.

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169. sami on November 14, 2011 8:59 AM writes...

The climate change issue has become the world's most powerful religeon. Science has nothing to do with it anymore and hasn't done for quite some time

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170. nanomatik on December 5, 2011 5:41 AM writes...

The climate change issue has become the world's most powerful religeon. Science has nothing to do with it anymore and hasn't done for quite some time."

I absolutely agree with Evorich.

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171. Drucilla Antonelli on July 9, 2012 5:03 AM writes...

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